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SITUATION GETS MESSIER

U.S Investors File Suit Against Vivendi,
Former CEO
U.S. investors have filed a securities fraud lawsuit against media giant Vivendi Universal and its former chairman, Jean-Marie Messier, that alleges the ousted chief executive inflated the value of the group's shares by concealing a financial crisis, according to the Financial Times.

The suit seeks class action status on behalf of investors who bought Vivendi Universal securities between Feb. 11 and July 3. Vivendi Universal shares fell from $48.4 to $14.01 in this period, which culminated with the ousting of Messier and the revelation of a liquidity crisis.

"Messier orchestrated a scheme to conceal the severity of Vivendi's liquidity problems," the suit alleges. "Only days before his ouster, Messier caused the company to issue several press releases that falsely stated that Vivendi did not face an immediate and severe cash shortage."

The suit, which seeks unspecified damages, was filed in a New York federal court on behalf of Rosenbaum Partners, a group that bought securities during the class period, according to specialist class action law firm Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz.

Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz last month filed a class action suit against WorldCom and its former chairman Bernie Ebbers, finance director Scott Sullivan and auditor Arthur Andersen.

The fear of such a class action is understood to have contributed to the spate of resignations from Vivendi Universal's board of directors in recent months.

Jean-Rene Fourtou, new chief executive, hopes a new loan will buy the group three months in which to conduct a review of the conglomerate's raison d'tre. It said on Friday it would likely delay publication of its first-half results.

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