Legal threat to BT

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The Independent Online
A SMALL shareholder in British Telecommunications is threatening to take legal action against the BT directors if they press ahead with plans to increase their powers at the annual meeting next month.

The incensed shareholder, Mark Hardy of Stoke-by-Clare, Suffolk, has lodged a formal complaint with the Stock Exchange, alleging BT has breached its listing rules. He has also requested the support of PIRC, the pressure group which took on British Gas last month.

Mr Hardy is angry about what he calls BT's "dictatorial" plans to give Sir Iain Vallance, the chairman, absolute authority on points of order and matters of procedure at AGMs. He is also concerned that BT is not giving its 1.2 million shareholders full details of the planned changes to the articles of association.

Mr Hardy, who has long waged a campaign against BT's auditors Coopers & Lybrand, has written to Colin Green, BT's company secretary.

He wrote: "If the chairman believes he needs the power to have absolute and unfettered control over the members [the shareholders], then he had better explain why." He went on: "I will seek, as a last resort and only if absolutely necessary, injunctive relief . . . to compel you and the directors to grant the shareholders their clear rights."

A BT spokesman said: "I don't think he [Mr Hardy] will find anything we have done is anything but decent, legal and above board."