17 February 2014

Highest Dutch court quashes subprime exposure fines levied on Ageas

Ageas (formerly Fortis) launched an EUR 13 billion rights issue in September 2007 to finance its takeover of ABN AMRO. The Netherlands Authority for the Financial Markets (AFM) levied a fine on Fortis for allegedly providing incomplete information regarding its EUR 8.7 billion portfolio of structured credits exposed to subprime, in the prospectus and a trading update published prior to the rights issue. This has also led to various legal actions instituted against Fortis/Ageas, including an allegedly multibillion euro claim for damages by shareholder representatives.

On 14 February 2014, the highest administrative law Court in the Netherlands (College van Beroep voor het bedrijfsleven; CBb) quashed the AFM ruling and the fines levied by it. The CBb has ruled that the risk-assessment of Fortis in respect of the portfolio was not unreasonable at the time and that for that reason Fortis has not violated her obligations to publish price-sensitive information. As the CBb is the highest administrative law court of the Netherlands its decision is final and not subject to any appeal.

De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek acted for Ageas in this successful appeal. The team consisted of Harm-Jan de Kluiver (lead partner), Robbert Tan, Jan-Willem Meijer, Roan Lamp and Margreet Poot.