Vivendi, Messier Risk Court as SEC Deadline Approaches

24 December 2003

Vivendi Universal and its controversial ex-ceo Jean-Marie Messier could face legal action if they fail to reach a deal with US regulators this week.

In September, America's Securities and Exchange Commission froze a €20.5 million ($25.4m; £14.4m) severance package to the former ceo for ninety days while it investigated the French media giant's accounts for the period in which Messier reigned [WAMN: 25-Sep-03]. Those 90 days expired Tuesday, meaning the SEC could file a suit unless all sides can reach a deal.

However, Vivendi and Messier must first reach an agreement over the latter's payoff before any settlement with regulators. The two sides are still at loggerheads over the handout, which has resulted in court proceedings both in the US and France. The company, which came close to bankruptcy following Messier's acquisition spree, claims the golden goodbye was never formally approved by its board.

There is speculation that, as part of a deal with the SEC, Vivendi may drop its lawsuits against Messier, who will then relinquish the payoff.

Reports in France at the weekend suggest the SEC may fine Vivendi over $100m on top of the severance package.

Data sourced from: International Herald Tribune; additional content by WARC staff