NETHERLANDS - A group of investors in troubled financial company Fortis is in talks with foreign pension funds to launch a US class action style complaint against the Dutch state.
De Gier Business Law founder Adriaan de Gier told Global Pensions: "We are turning to foreign pension funds because we think the Dutch ones do not have the guts to confront the Dutch state, despite the losses they realised on Fortis shares and bonds."
De Gier added the connections between large Dutch pension funds and the government make the schemes uncomfortable to launch a legal action against the state.
The law firm alleges that the Dutch state and, in particular, finance minister Wouter Bos, misrepresented Fortis' financial situation as safe in the week following the massive cash injection by the Dutch, Belgian and Luxembourg governments on September 28.
This led a number of investors to buy Fortis stocks, which became virtually worthless after the full nationalisation which took place in October.
In addition, de Gier said the talks are also with pension funds which held stakes in Fortis before its nationalisation.
He claimed the financial situation of Fortis was allegedly misrepresented by both the Dutch government and Fortis executives since late 2007.
One consultant - who is collaborating with de Gier, but preferred to remain anonymous - said the law firm is contact with US class action law specialist Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins, which has filed a collective action under US law against Fortis executives.
The consultant said: "Under Dutch law, it is not possible to file a complaint with the same structure as a US class action.
"We are contact with Coughlin to exchange information on how to do it in the Netherlands, but also to coordinate the two complaints and to see if pension funds participating to the US class action want to join the Dutch initiative.
"However the US and Dutch actions would remain two separate complaints."
He added the planned class action would be a continuation of an existing legal case against the state and that it could also involve Fortis executives in the future.
Last Wednesday, as part of the ongoing proceeding, Amsterdam district court decided it will announce in September whether key players in the decision to fully nationalise Fortis Holding's Dutch interests should be forced to testify.
A Dutch ministry of finance spokesperson said: "We have to wait for the decision of the judge on this case, but the ministry has already testified in two other proceedings. Therefore, we are wondering would the added value of a third testimony would be."
This week's edition of Professional Pensions is out now.
Ben Gunnee reflects on 2018 and talks about the Fiduciary Management trends to keep an eye on in 2019
Lloyds Banking Group secured 630,000 new pension customers last year, according to its 2018 annual results.
Guy Opperman has rejected calls to speed up changes to auto-enrolment (AE) despite increasing pressure to boost contribution rates and overall savings pots.