Revised €1,3 billion settlement in the Fortis case approved by Dutch court

On 13 July 2018, the Court of Amsterdam approveda revised €1.308,5 million class action settlement between Ageas (Fortis’ legal successor) and four claimant organizations ((VEB, Deminor, SICAF and Stichting FortisEffect) concerning allegedly false or misleading statements by Fortis during the financial crisis in 2007 and 2008. In an earlier decision of 16 June 2017, the court had declined to approve the settlement (discussed on this blog here). According to the court, the main reasons for this where the unjustified differences in compensation awarded to “active claimants” (those who filed a legal procedure or registered with any of the claimant organizations) and “non-active claimants” (those who didn’t), as well as the exorbitant fees for the claimant organizations.

After the court’s first decision, the parties reached a new settlement agreementon 12 December 2017, which took into account the court’s criticism and included a €100 million increase in the settlement amount. This time, ConsumentenClaim, one of the most important opponents during the first trial, also supported the agreement. Although the court remained critical for one of the claimant organizations (VEB), the court now approved the settlement and declared it binding on all shareholders that do not opt out within five months. This way, more than ten years after the facts, the shareholders of Fortis will get compensation and Ageas can leave this legacy behind.

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Are loyalty voting rights efficient?

Some reflections on the Belgian proposals

Especially after the financial crisis, many people have drawn attention to the problem of short-termism. There are many possible strategies to address this problem, including awarding additional voting rights to loyal shareholders (“loyalty voting rights”). Both France and Italy have introduced loyalty voting rights, and now the Belgian proposal for a new Companies and Associations Code also contains the possibility of loyalty voting rights in listed companies (discussed in previous blog posts here and here).

Of course, this raises the question how effective loyalty voting rights, as proposed in the Belgian Company Law Reform, are in addressing the short-termism problem. In this blog post, I argue that loyalty voting rights are unlikely to increase the holding periods of investors, as the evidence suggests that they are only used by the controlling shareholders. However, loyalty voting rights will allow a controlling shareholder to insulate itself from short-term market pressures. On the other hand, insulation also comes with the disadvantage of higher agency costs.

Therefore, I argue that loyalty voting shares are in fact nothing else than a type of control-enhancing mechanism. This implies that shareholders should be protected against midstream introductions of loyalty voting rights. On this ground, I question the wisdom of lowering the threshold to introduce loyalty voting rights, as the Belgian legislator is proposing, inspired by the French and Italian examples. In addition, I propose an additional majority for the introduction of loyalty voting rights, inspired by the idea of “majority of the minority” approval.

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Proposed New Belgian Companies Code: so what for Lenders?

A post by guest blogger Eric Blomme (Baker McKenzie)

The government’s proposal for a new Belgian Companies Code is a hot topic in the Belgian legal and business world.  Among the most publicized changes are a cap on directors’ liability for all company types and the abolition of the share capital for the private limited liability company (now BVBA/SPRL but to be renamed BV/SRL).  No doubt good news for directors and shareholders but what does this mean for lenders?  Continue reading “Proposed New Belgian Companies Code: so what for Lenders?”

Polbud: new perspectives for corporate mobility in the internal market

Professor Johan Meeusen (UA) in Liber Amicorum Christian Kohler

Professor Johan Meeusen of the University of Antwerp wrote an interesting contribution on corporate mobility and the internal market in Europa als Rechts- und Lebensraum, Liber amicorum für Christian Kohler zum 75. Geburtstag am 18. Juni 2018 (Bielefeld, Gieseking, 2018). A quote:  Continue reading “Polbud: new perspectives for corporate mobility in the internal market”

Agreement reached on a partial general approach on the directive on insolvency, restructuring and second chance

Today (04/06/2018), the Justice and Home Affairs Council has agreed on a partial general approach on the directive on insolvency, restructuring and second chance (previous posts on the proposal of this directive can be found here and here). The partial agreement covers the articles of Title III (Discharge of debts and disqualifications), Title IV (Measures to increase the efficiency of procedures concerning restructuring, insolvency and discharge of debt) and Title V (Monitoring of procedures concerning restructuring, insolvency and discharge of debt) as well as key related recitals.

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Publicatie: Le droit des contrats à l’épreuve de la faillite

De gevolgen van een faillissement voor lopende overeenkomsten geven aanleiding tot een veelheid van boeiende praktische en theoretische vragen. Om deze vragen te beantwoorden was tot voor kort geen standaardwerk beschikbaar. Dit standaardwerk is er nu wel, in de vorm van de publicatie van het proefschrift van dr. Florence George.  À ne pas rater.

New EU rules on company law: more flexibility, more protection?

Company Law package may have large impact on cross-border mobility of EU companies

Yesterday, the European Commission launched two proposals for new rules on the cross-border mobility and digital registration of companies. The rules are intended to make it easier for companies to merge, divide or move within the European Union, as well as to prevent social dumping, tax evasion and other forms of abuse.

Continue reading “New EU rules on company law: more flexibility, more protection?”