Collective Actions

 

WATT legal is renowned for its specialization in collective judicial actions grouping tens or even thousands of claimants, which requires adapted organization, methods and judicial strategies.

 

 

The WATT legal partners intervened in the biggest financial cases of the 30 last years in Belgium (Assubel, Ubizen-Verizon, Electrabel, Banque nationale de Belgique, Fortis, KBC 5-5-5, Irish Life…).

 

Ongoing Actions

  • Assubel

    Between 1982 and 1987, the insurance company Assubel improperly transferred more than 125 million € of its "life" branch to its "accidents and injuries" branch. Life-insured Assubel clients claim accordingly a corresponding compensation, since part of the profits of the "life" branch was contractually guaranteed to them.

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  • Electrabel

    Dispute between the former minority shareholders of Electrabel Suez following the public takeover bid (squeeze out) launched by the latter in July 2007.

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  • BNB

    A group of shareholders of the National Bank of Belgium (private company listed on Euronext) challenges the distribution of capital gains realized on the gold reserves of the latter, which is defavorable to the company and in favour of the Belgian state.

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  • Verizon

    Minority shareholders of Ubizen (a computer spin-off of the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven) claim an additional indemnification following a squeeze-out by the present majority shareholder, Verizon (formerly Cybertrust).

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  • Fortis

    In the end of September 2008, the international banking and insurance group Fortis was the first in Europe to have to be rescued by state intervention, after a long downward spiral of its share price from about 30 € to 5 €. Following this intervention, BNP Paribas bought the Belgian banking pole (Fortis Bank, now BNP Paribas Fortis), while the Dutch government redeemed the bank ABN Amro, which Fortis had recently bought. This dismantling left a pure insurance group (which has changed its name to "Ageas" since). Its share price fell to 0,80 €. The collective action aims to recover, through civil and criminal proceedings in Belgium and in the Netherlands when appropriate, the stock damage suffered by more than 1300 investors and shareholders in 2007 and 2008.

     

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  • KBC-CDO

    The Belgian bank KBC has marketed, in 2006-2007, complex financial products of the "synthetic" CDO type (collateralized debt obligations), linked to subprimes, which were not suitable for non-institutional investors (notably SME's) and were not adequately described.

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  • KBC 5-5-5

    In 2008, KBC Group and KBC Ifima (both subsidiaries of the Belgian bank KBC) issued "first to default" structured notes (linked to state bonds of France, Belgium, Italy, Spain and Greece). They were were marketed as "defensive" by KBC Bank. Instead of spreading the risk, the mechanism for the redemption of these bonds multiplied it by five, since a default of only one of these countries triggered the anticipated redemption of the bonds, for a price corresponding to the (very low) value of the defaulting state bonds. When Greece defaulted, KBC repaid the bonds for about 80% (instead of 25%) as a "goodwill gesture", but Investor Protection (www.investorprotection.be), which represents almost 200 bondholders, aims to recover the balance of the damage.

     

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