Scor steps up attacks in French insurance feud

Scor, the French reinsurer, has published documents that it forced Credit Suisse to hand over in an effort to expose alleged foul play behind a takeover bid that opened up a bitter feud in France’s insurance industry.

The dispute has put the spotlight on investment bankers at Barclays and Rothschild, which are being sued by Scor over their handling of information in an attempt to engineer a controversial takeover of the French reinsurer by a rival.

The documents, some of which were included in a court filing in Paris this week and published on Scor’s website, show that Credit Suisse was asked last July for ideas that would “kill” a rival deal.

The disclosure shed light on the acrimonious fight that pits Denis Kessler, Scor’s longstanding chief executive, against Thierry Derez, CEO of the French mutual insurer Covéa which, until Tuesday, had said it wanted to buy Scor.

The filings show that last month Scor took legal action in the UK High Court against Credit Suisse — which was advising Covéa until it pulled out in November — to force it to hand over documents relating to the deal.

Scor has been battling interest from Covéa since August. Covéa already owns an 8 per cent stake in the reinsurer and Mr Derez was on the Scor board until last November.

Scor said on Tuesday that it was taking legal action against Mr Derez and Covéa, along with Barclays and Rothschild which were advising the mutual.

The reinsurer alleges that Mr Derez used confidential information that had been given to him as a director of Scor — including details of a potential merger with a rival — in order to further Covéa’s efforts to buy the company.

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After a board meeting on Wednesday, Covéa said: “After thorough examination, Covéa’s board of directors firmly rejects all the groundless accusations made by Scor and reaffirms its unanimous support to Thierry Derez and his action. Covéa will take all action in order to defend its interests in view of the serious reputational harm resulting from Scor’s unacceptable accusations, which are undoubtedly part of a strategy to manipulate the judicial process.”

Scor on Tuesday published court filings containing more details of its allegations. It claims that Mr Derez told his advisers about Scor’s confidential plans last year to merge with PartnerRe — a rival deal to the one that Covéa was preparing.

Those documents include internal Credit Suisse emails which suggest that Mr Derez asked the bank to prepare arguments against the Scor/Partner Re combination that could be used to “kill” the potential deal.

They also include a message that Scor said came from Mr Derez’s assistant to bankers at Barclays, which included minutes of a July meeting of the strategic committee of Scor’s board of directors. Barclays subsequently forwarded the message to Credit Suisse and Rothschild.

Barclays, Credit Suisse and Rothschild have declined to comment.



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