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Credit Suisse attempts to get $550m payout ruling overturned

The Bermuda unit of Credit Suisse, CS Life, is in the Court of Appeal fighting the $550 million Supreme Court judgment against it (File photograph)

A legal case involving the Spice Girls was cited by a lawyer as he attempted to fight a $550 million Supreme Court judgment against a Bermuda unit of one of the world’s largest investment banks.

The Court of Appeal hearing is the next chapter in the case in which Credit Suisse Life (Bermuda) had been found to turn a “blind eye” to a Credit Suisse employee’s misuse of client money.

The employee had been under suspicion by the bank’s supervisory and compliance staff, but little was done to rein him in, the court ruled. Later, he was convicted of fraud and jailed for his crimes, before committing suicide.

Chief Justice Narinder Hargun had estimated that Credit Suisse Life Ltd, a Bermuda-based subsidiary of Credit Suisse, defrauded the Georgian billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, his family and two related companies of about $600 million.

The former prime minister of Georgia and his family sued CS Life after hundreds of millions of dollars were lost from their accounts owing to the actions of the fraudster, Patrice Lescaudron.

Mr Hargun ruled in March that they were victims of fraud and the Swiss bank had put revenue ahead of the interests of its clients.

The initial claim was for damages calculated as amounting to $553.86 million, the difference between the actual value and the value of the assets had they been invested in a medium-risk portfolio.

The court had ruled that “CS Life was responsible for not taking adequate actions to prevent fraud and mismanagement on the accounts.”

This week, Credit Suisse Life (Bermuda) lawyer Lord Falconer argued before the president of the Court of Appeal, Sir Christopher Clarke, and fellow justices Geoffrey Bell and Anthony Smellie.

Lord Falconer was challenging the notion of any CS Life misrepresentation, saying the argument made by Mr Ivanishvili’s lawyers, that Credit Suisse had “represented” that the money would be handled honestly, was complex.

Lord Falconer said for the misrepresentation claim “to get off the ground”, it had to have been made by Lescaudron as agent of Credit Suisse Life (Bermuda).

“We submit that’s a wrong conclusion to reach for imputing knowledge to CS Life,” he said, adding that if Lescaudron had not been acting on behalf of Credit Suisse Life, then the company could not be held responsible for his dishonesty.

Lord Falconer added that the case was not about non-disclosure. “We’re dealing with deceit,” he said.

A legal case between the band Spice Girls and a scooter company they had contracted with provided an example of a similar legal situation.

Mr Falconer said the case was about ambiguity in representation. This was that there had been an implied representation that no one knew that one of the members of Spice Girls was about to leave the band.

“The scooter company did not understand the representation in the way the defendants said it should be understood. In fact, one of them had repeatedly said she was going to leave fairly shortly.”

Lord Falconer argued earlier that the award to Mr Ivanishvili was overly simplistic and optimistic, Bloomberg reported.

He said the calculation treated the entire portfolio as a single block and was predicated on theoretical returns during an extended bull market.

“He’s getting a second bite of the cherry” when stock market returns were “very successful”, Lord Falconer said.

The appeal hearing is scheduled to conclude at the end of this week.