Italy Court Rejects Challenge to State Bailout of Paschi
(Updates with Codacons comment in fifth paragraph.)
Feb. 22 (Bloomberg) -- An Italian court rejected a legal challenge to Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA receiving 3.9 billion euros ($5.2 billion) in state aid.
The regional administrative court in Rome threw out the claim by consumer group Codacons that the Bank of Italy and other regulators didn’t adequately monitor the Siena-based lender’s activities, the court said in a ruling published on its website. Alleged damage by the bailout is still an eventuality, the court said.
As part of the suit Codacons sought access to a central bank technical opinion on Monte Paschi drafted last month and not released to the public. The document was filed to the court in a sealed envelope. The central bank said two weeks ago Codacons’s assertions were “inadmissible and unfounded.”
“Blocking aid would have hurt Italy’s credibility,” Alessandro Frigerio, a fund manager at RMJ Sgr in Milan, said by telephone before the ruling was announced. “We have never seen a government procedure, backed by the central bank, obstructed by a tribunal.”
Codacons may appeal the ruling at the Council of State or may file a new claim at the administrative court after the bonds are issued, Codacons President Carlo Rienzi said by phone.
Monte Paschi rose as much as 3.5 percent, and was up 1.9 percent to 22.62 cents at 12:26 p.m. in Milan. The Bloomberg Europe Banks and Financial Services Index, which was up 1.1 percent today, has risen 23 percent in the last six months, compared with Paschi’s 5 percent decline.
Monte Paschi, engulfed by investigations of its former managers, said on Feb. 6 it will take a 730 million-euro hit to its assets after reviewing structured deals from 2008 and 2009 that hid losses. In one transaction that wasn’t fully disclosed, the bank made a money-losing bet on Italian government bonds in a structured deal disguised as a loan, Bloomberg News reported on Jan. 17. Accounting irregularities also prompted a criminal probe targeting previous management.
The bank is seeking financial aid from the government to bolster its balance sheet after failing to meet capital requirements set by the European Banking Authority. The company is also selling assets and reducing risk and costs in a three- year plan to restore liquidity.
Under the government’s rescue plan, Monte Paschi will sell securities, dubbed “Monti bonds” after the prime minister’s surname, to the government with a 9 percent coupon that may rise to as much as 15 percent. According to the decree approved by Monti’s Cabinet in December, the payment is set to be completed by March 1.
--Editors: Mark Bentley, Frank Connelly, Dan Liefgreen