Following the shock decision by Vivendi Universal chief executive Jean-Marie Messier to annul all votes cast by an electronic voting system at last Wednesday’s AGM [see story below], French shareholder groups announced Sunday they planned legal action to challenge the decision.

Messier justified his edict by alleging the vote had been sabotaged by hackers breaking into the electronic ballot, managed on Vivendi’s behalf by French bank BNP/Paribas.

The move to declare the vote null and void came two days after the meeting at which shareholders demanded Messier’s resignation, heckled his interventions and voted down a controversial €2 billion ($1.80bn;£1.24bn) stock option scheme.

Said the president of shareholder rights organisation ADAM, Colette Neuville, who had opposed the stock option proposal: “The governance of this company never ceases to amaze me: a shareholder meeting's decision is sovereign and cannot be unilaterally cancelled on the whim of the chief executive.

“Mr Messier would be right to voice any suspicions he might have, but the courts have to rule first that the votes were invalid before he can declare the meeting null and void. His statement is totally premature and smacks of the behaviour of the spoilt child or totalitarian government.”

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff