Firm Wins Landmark Case for French Savings Bank


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Hughes Hubbard won a landmark decision for the Caisse d'Epargne (CELDA), a French savings bank belonging to the BPCE Group, which is one of the largest banks in France.

On April 19, the Financial Markets Authority (AMF), the French counterpart to the Securities and Exchange Commission, dismissed the claim brought in 2011 by the AMF prosecuting commission against CELDA and three other savings banks of the BPCE group over an investment fund called Doubl’ô. The AMF ruled the statute of limitations had expired. The decision allowed CELDA to avoid paying a fine of 1 million euros.

AMF’s decision rested on when the three-year statute of limitations had started ticking. The AMF’s disciplinary committee agreed with Hughes Hubbard that the clock started ticking after the bank commercialized Doubl’ô between June 2001 and April 2002. During that time, commercial leaflets claimed the product could “double your capital quietly” in six years. But the prosecuting commission said that the investors, who invested a total of 2 billion euros, only recovered their capital, minus the management costs, in that time period.

The prosecuting commission of the AMF argued the clock should have started to tick in 2008 when the investors realized that Doubl’ô would not meet their expectations, and that the principles applicable to the statute of limitation for financial criminal offenses should be transposed to the regulatory matter.

“This decision is a very interesting analysis of the starting point of the limitation period of three years,” Marc Henry told L’Agefi, a leading French finance newspaper. “It is quite clear that it lies at the time of the relevant facts.”
 
AMF’s decision garnered widespread news coverage. Henry was also interviewed by AFP, Les Echos (the leading French economic newspaper), and Le Parisien. Hughes Hubbard is mentioned in both Les Echos and L’Agefi.

In addition to Henry, Ludmilla Balandine and Mathilde Pardoux represented Caisse d’Epargne.

See also the English translation of the Le Parisien article and the English translation of the Les Echos article.