3,000 new complainants in France and questions in Belgium

3,000 new complainants in France and questions in Belgium
3,000 new complainants in France and questions in Belgium

Five years after the first revelations, a new chapter opens in the already thick case of French asset manager H2O, in which several thousand French savers are seeking to recover part of their investments, blocked since 2020 in “ring-fenced” funds after having been invested in risky assets.

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During the hearing scheduled for Tuesday, May 28 before the Paris Commercial Court, some 3,000 individuals, wealth management advisors and institutional investors are expected to join the collective of holders which already brings together 6,000.

This collective sued several companies in the H2O galaxy in December 2023, their former parent company Natixis Investment Managers (it reduced its stake from 50.01% to 23.4% in 2022), but also the auditor KPMG and the investor services company Caceis.

Of unprecedented severity

With these reinforcements, the collective’s estimate of the total damage affected by the procedure will increase from 717 million to almost 1 billion euros. Claims that H2O describes as“unrealistic”.

The company, which continues its activities and employs 60 people in five offices, has made two partial repayments of ring-fenced assets since the beginning of 2023, for a total of 226 million euros.

In this case, H2O has already been targeted by sanctions of unprecedented severity imposed by the Financial Markets Authority (AMF) in December 2022: 93 million euros in fines in total for H2O AM Europe, the one of the group’s companies, and its two co-founders, Vincent Chailley and Bruno Crastes. The latter, in addition to a fine of 15 million, was banned from exercising any management or executive activity for five years in a financial company operating in France. H2O filed an appeal before the Council of State.

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For the AMF, H2O invested in financial instruments which were not eligible for its funds, carried out financing transactions which were prohibited to it and exceeded the control ratios, the ceilings which the funds are authorized to invest in a single issuer, which aim to avoid excessive concentration of risks.

A Belgian side of the affair

At the heart of the file, revealed by the Financial Times in June 2019, nearly 1,300 financial transactions in total involving securities issued by companies in the Tennor group, founded by Lars Windhorst, a German businessman with a sulphurous reputation, convicted in the 2000s for fraud and abuse of trust.

Tennor owned, among others, at the time the Italian lingerie brand La Perla, placed in suspension of payments in February 2024. An investment among others far removed from the strategies that had made H2O’s reputation.

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