François Fornieri, CEO of the Liege-based pharmaceuticals company Mithra, is reported to be under investigation by the Liege prosecutor’s office for suspected insider trading.
Mithra specialises in women’s health, in particular oral contraceptives. Last October the company reached an agreement with Mayne Pharma in the US to commercialise Mithra’s Estelle contraceptive there. The agreement saw Mithra’s share price tumble by 20%.
According to the Sudpresse newspapers, the investigation was launched just after, when large volumes of Mithra shares were being bought by a third party, now suspected of acting on behalf of Fornieri himself. Investigators believe he transferred substantial sums of money to the bank account of the buyer to make the transaction.
By law, anyone obtaining a shareholding about a certain amount must make the acquisition known to the market regulator. If Fornieri used his inside knowledge of the company to manipulate the share price to his own profit, that would be illegal.
Fornieri denies any knowledge of any irregularity. Contacted by Sudpresse, he responded, “I’m flabbergasted. I know nothing about any of this.”
Mithra, named after the Zoroastrian divinity, uses biotechnology to produce pharmaceuticals for women’s health, concentrating on contraception, menopause and hormone-related cancers. Its products include the contraceptive Estelle, PeriNesta for perimenopause and hormone therapy product Donesta. Just this week the company announced a licensing agreement to market its vaginal contraceptive ring in Italy.