By Maya Nikolaeva
PARIS Feb 15 Natixis has been placed
under formal investigation in France over statements the bank
released regarding its financial position at the start of the
global sub-prime lending crisis in 2007, it said on Wednesday.
The bank, formed in December 2006 out of the merger of
state-backed parent BPCE's Ixis and Natexis units, was hit the
hardest among French banks by the financial crisis and had to be
rescued from near-collapse by BPCE.
The investigation stems from complaints first made in 2010,
relating to two announcements released in the second half of
2007, Natixis said.
Colette Neuville, head of the French shareholder lobby group
ADAM, told Reuters that about 1,000 complaints have been sent to
the investigating authorities and that many of those private
shareholders had been encouraged to buy Natixis shares before
their price plunged in the financial crisis.
"This is a scandal that has affected many small investors,"
Natixis denies that it had provided misleading information
in the 2007 statements.
"Natixis considers that it provided to the public, in good
faith, the information available to it about its exposure, and
as and when any underlying risks were identified," the company
said in a statement.
The bank was investigated by the AMF financial market
watchdog in 2010 to determine whether it had concealed losses in
late 2008 at the height of the crisis. No charges were brought
as a result of the investigation.
(Additional reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by David