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Time is running out on partial Parmalat deal

EUROPE - Fresh calls are going out to European pension funds who may be interested in receiving a payout from a $50m (€37m) partial legal settlement related to the Parmalat collapse.

James Sabella, partner at Grant Eisenhofer in Delaware - a legal firm representing global institutional clients such as the Dutch pension fund ABP - said those involved in the class action filed in the US have been giving notice to shareholders to register their interest in receiving a partial settlement payout, in return for waiving their right to sue financial firm BNL and the group known as Credit Suisse Defendants.

"We have submitted the settlement notice to the court and it will be heard on July 17. As part of that we have to give notice to the shareholders," said Sabella.

A notice was issued by the Southern District of New York court in the US earlier this year stating all shareholders who bought shares or bond in the company between January 5 1999 and December 18 2003 - the day before the company collapsed - may now be entitled to a share of the $50m partial legal settlement which is being financed by BNL and the Credit Suisse Defendants.

The two firms are being sued for what shareholders see as their role in failing to prevent what they see as fraud by Parmalat.

Legal officials and firms involved in the class action are trying to contact shareholders who may interested in receiving a payout through mailings and advertising campaigns as shareholders - based all over the world - have until the third week in June to register their interest.

Among the lead plaintiffs seeking a partial settlement, and being advised by Grant & Eisenhofer, is Hermes Focus Asset Management Europe, a division of Hermes Pensions Management.

Parmalat collapsed in December 2003 after it was discovered a bank account supposedly worth €4bn did not exist.

The first legal suit was then issued to Parmalat Finanziaria SpA and associated accounting and financial firms in January 2004 by US pension fund the Southern Alaska Carpenters Retirement Trust.

Officials said the firms involved breached the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 by concocting "a massive scheme whereby they overstated Parmalat's reported profits and assets for more than a decade".

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