More than a decade after the collapse of the bank, the Brussels prosecutor’s office has decided not to press charges against the former directors of Fortis. Five years ago, in 2013, the same office had recommended that seven former administrators of the bank be committed for trial, accused of having covered up the truth about the bank’s exposure to the real estate crisis in the United States.
The initial investigation into the affairs of Fortis began in October 2008, with accusations of falsified records used for the annual accounts, as well as failure to meet the requirements of proper information provided to the stock market.
The prosecutor was informed in 2016 of negotiations involving Ageas – the successor of Fortis Holding – and victims of the bank’s collapse. Those talks reached an end in September this year with a compensation fund of €1.3 billion.
Now, the charges against the seven former administrators have been dropped, the prosecutor’s office says, as some charges could not be sufficiently substantiated, while others have already run out of time or are about to do so.
“Following a thorough new analysis of the various aspects of the criminal case, the prosecution has not been able to reach a sufficient degree of certainty that the conditions required for a charge of using false information in annual accounts have been met,” the prosecutor’s office said in a statement. And it stressed that the primary aim in the whole investigation was to look after the interests of shareholders.
According to Laurent Arnauts, a lawyer who represents some 1,400 Fortis investors, the decision not to prosecute does not mean the fight for justice has failed. In fact, it led to the biggest settlement ever with €1.3 billion in compensation, and created a precedent for future large-scale, complex financial cases, he said.