Former Credit Lyonnais chief cleared by inquiry: Badly managed investments and property speculation blamed for problems at state-owned French bank

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The Independent Online
A PARLIAMENTARY inquiry into mismanagement at France's state-owned Credit Lyonnais bank found nothing to impugn the honour of Jean-Yves Haberer, the former chief executive, Philippe Seguin, president of the National Assembly, said yesterday.

Mr Seguin was presenting the report of a commission set up in March after Mr Haberer was dismissed as chairman of the smaller Credit National, an unusually harsh punishment in the highly protected world of French administrators and civil servants, specifically for his earlier management of Credit Lyonnais.

Mr Seguin, a Gaullist, questioned the efficiency of state control. Most of the time the bank was running into difficulty, the government was in Socialist hands.

'The procedure of following up exposure was only put into place by the finance ministry in September 1992 while the banking commission had significantly reinforced its surveillance of the Lyonnais from the summer of 1991,' the report said.

Among mistakes laid at the door of Credit Lyonnais were Fr1.1bn (pounds 1.32m) in loans to the late Robert Maxwell, Fr2bn to Olympia and York, the Canadian developer that collapsed in 1992, Fr550m to La Cinq, France's fifth television channel that went bankrupt two years ago, and Fr500m to the businesses of Bernard Tapie, the entrepreneur and politician.

The biggest problem, however, was the Fr15bn which Credit Lyonnais' Dutch subsidiary entrusted to Giancarlo Parretti to buy Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The Italian businessman later proved incapable of completing the deal.

His associate, Florio Fiorini, was jailed in Switzerland for bankruptcy and Swiss authorities have summoned Mr Haberer and another senior Credit Lyonnais official for questioning. In March the bank published losses of Fr6.9bn for 1993.

Mr Seguin blamed the bank's problems on 'a bulimia of investments and stake acquisitions which were not always accompanied by good risk management', as well as property speculation.

The inquiry, conducting its work behind closed doors, interviewed Mr Haberer and Jean-Yves Peyrelevade, his successor, as well as government ministers and senior Bank of France officials.

Mr Peyrelevade told the commission that the government's rescue plan for the bank - including capital injections adding up to Fr4.9bn and guaranteeing losses of Fr18.4bn - was inadequate. 'This recovery plan is not enough and that will become clear.'

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