Soros insider trading case to be reviewed

Financial Times | September 15, 2010
By Jane Croft

George Soros, the international investor and one of the world’s richest men, is to have his 2002 criminal conviction for insider trading reviewed by the European Court of Human Rights.

Mr Soros appealed to Strasbourg after he was convicted by a French court of insider trading in 2002 in relation to his conduct during a takeover battle in 1988 involving one of the country’s biggest banks, Société Générale.

The affair, involving an abortive stock market raid by Georges Pébereau, the French financier, to buy control of SG, implicated several businessmen and caused turmoil in French politics at the time.

In 1988, an investor invited Mr Soros to take part in an operation to buy up shares in SocGen in a bid to take it over. After studying the offer, he declined. A few days later he had his investment company buy $50m worth of shares in four French companies including the bank and subsequently sold some of the stock.

The case took 14 years to come to trial because of delays securing information from the Netherlands, Britain, Luxembourg and Switzerland. At the time of the trial, his lawyers argued that the delay in bringing the case to court was unreasonable and infringed the European human rights convention.

Mr Soros was found guilty of insider trading in 2002, allegations he has always denied, and received a fine of €2.2m – no more than his profits from the trades – which was reduced on appeal in 2007 to €940,507.

He lodged a complaint against his conviction with the European Court of Human Rights in December 2006 and on Wednesday a chamber of seven judges decided that his application to have the case reviewed was at least partly admissible.

Mr Soros had launched a complaint under article seven of the Convention of Human Rights, in which he alleged the law applicable at the relevant time had been too unclear for him to realise that he was doing anything wrong.

The chamber of judges ruled on Wednesday that this complaint “raised complex issues of fact and law” and required further examination.

However, other complaints brought in Mr Soros’s application, including one about the excessive length of the trial, which he claimed had affected his ability to recall facts, were rejected by the court.

The chamber also declared inadmissible a complaint by Mr Soros that the burden of proof had been shifted on to him and that he had not been given the benefit of the doubt. He alleged that he had been convicted without having been able to prove his innocence several years after the event.
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