New Zealand fund launches legal action against Bank of Portugal

As intimated in February, the New Zealand Superannuation Fund has added its weight to the landscape of multimillion euro lawsuits and legal actions that has flourished in the wake of the Bank of Portugal’s handling of the BES banking scandal.

In a statement posted on its website on Tuesday, the fund said legal proceedings were filed “this morning New Zealand time” and challenge the “validity” of the Bank of Portugal’s actions.

Backed by the NZ government, the fund is gunning to recover €142 million ‘dumped’ in the bad bank, after assurances that it would be placed in the “good bank” (Novo Banco).

The money is part of a loan made by a subsidiary of Goldman Sachs to a subsidiary of BES, weeks before the latter collapsed.

Bank of Portugal’s change of heart had everything to do with its concern over Novo Banco’s allure to prospective buyers.

As NZ Superannuation’s CEO Adrian Orr told the Wall Street Jornal in February, the fund feels it has been treated “unequally and unfairly”.

Novo Banco “continues to have the benefit of money” that NZ Superannuation lent but the Bank of Portugal has washed its hands of any responsibility to return it.

The fund is one of “at least eight noteholders” that are now pursuing their money through the English and Portuguese courts, Orr added.

Meantime, the interest by potential buyers for Novo Banco is reported to be dwindling.

Of the initial 17 banks said to be interested in the “good bank”, only one, Spanish bank Santander, is left. The other contenders are so-called American equity or Chinese investment funds.

As critics are pointing out: “The authorities have not been clear over whether the risk of litigation will fall to the State or the buyer of Novo Banco.”

Meantime, small investors caught up in this financial tsunami have vowed they will stage weekly protests until they get their money back.

The sums involved in all the actions put together run into many hundreds of millions.

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