NEW YORK (Reuters) - Vivendi SA (VIV.PA) said it agreed to pay $26.4 million to end nearly 15 years of U.S. litigation accusing the French media company of misleading shareholders about its finances in connection with a $46 billion three-way merger.
Thursday’s accord resolved claims that Vivendi and officials including former Chief Executive Jean-Marie Messier made false or misleading statements that concealed liquidity problems after the 2000 combination of Vivendi, Seagram Co and Canal Plus.
A preliminary settlement was filed with the federal court in Manhattan, and requires approval by U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer.
It resolves claims by investors whose financial advisers bought Vivendi’s American depositary shares on their behalf from Oct. 30, 2000 to Aug. 14, 2002, according to court papers.
The $26.4 million payment represents one-third of the maximum amount the investors might have won had litigation continued, the papers showed.
Vivendi said that including the payment, it will have paid $78 million to resolve the entire litigation, in which investors at one time had hoped to recover $9.3 billion.
A federal jury in Manhattan had in January 2010 found Vivendi liable for violating U.S. securities laws.
But a U.S. Supreme Court decision five months later in an unrelated case ultimately scuttled most claims by Vivendi investors, including over ordinary shares listed in Paris.
Vivendi said it will release a roughly 25 million euro ($26.6 million) reserve it had set aside for Thursday’s accord.
The case is In re Vivendi Universal SA Securities Litigation, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 02-05571.
Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by David Gregorio