By AML Intelligence Correspondents
FRANCE’s top court today (Wednesday) ruled a new trial should be held over a €1.8BN ($1.95 billion) fine against UBS for promoting illegal banking services and money laundering in the country.
The court, which also upheld the guilty verdict against the bank, said a new trial would need to take place at the Paris appeals court to determine a new fine, if any.
The ruling reverses and annuls the decision of the Paris Court of Appeal from Dec. 13, 2021, but only insofar as it relates to penalties and civil interests, all other provisions being expressly maintained, the court said.
UBS’s shares, which were already up on the day, spiked as much as 3% more after news broke that the 1.8 billion-euro fine was struck down. However, they then erased those gains and more, to last stand up around 1.6%.
The decision by the Cour de Cassation, France’s highest judicial court, means the guilty verdict on UBS is final. The court said a new trial over penalties was needed because the previous decision on the fine did not follow all the correct legal procedures.
UBS said it was disappointed the court had upheld the overall verdict against it, adding it continued to maintain that it acted in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations, and would defend itself in the forthcoming trial.
The ruling once again extends uncertainty over the fine for the Swiss bank, which sought to overturn the verdict and penalty for having wooed wealthy French clients into hiding undeclared funds in Swiss bank accounts between 2004 and 2012.
“UBS may be able to partially reduce the 1.1bn euros of provisions currently set aside (for the case),” Keefe, Bruyette & Woods said in a note to clients before the ruling was released.
“However, we would caveat that a new trial may lead to a final settlement above or below the 1.8bn euros,” it said, adding that it expected the case to take “multiple years” to come to an end.
The legal saga has lasted for more than a decade and saw some of the bank’s representatives grilled by French judges.
The 1.8 billion-euro fine ordered two years ago against UBS in France was less than half an initial overall penalty of 4.5 billion imposed on the bank after a first trial in 2019.
It is comprised of a 1 billion-euro penalty and 800 million euros in damages owed to the French state.
UBS reported in its third quarter results that it had put aside over $4 billion in provisions for litigation and regulatory matters, roughly half of which is for Credit Suisse. It estimated that the financial implications from the French case alone would come to 1.1 billion euros.
France’s top court reviewed whether the Paris appeals court ruling had complied with the law, not the facts that underpinned its decision.
UBS remains involved in a string of litigation and regulatory matters including claims related to the sale of mortgages and residential mortgage-backed securities in the United States.
It also assumed a number of cases from Credit Suisse when it officially took over its former rival and has already settled a number of those, such as with Mozambique over the decade-old $1.5 billion-plus “tuna bond” scandal