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IN RE PARMALAT SECURITIES LITIGATION

August 5, 2005.

In re PARMALAT SECURITIES LITIGATION. This document relates to: 05 Civ. 4015. ENRICO BONDI, Plaintiff,
v.
BANK OF AMERICA CORPORATION, et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: LEWIS KAPLAN, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff Enrico Bondi has served since December 2003 as the Extraordinary Commissioner of Parmalat Finanziaria S.p.A., Parmalat S.p.A., and 21 affiliated entities (the "Parmalat Debtors") in the Italian reorganization proceedings known as Extraordinary Administration.*fn1 His position is roughly equivalent to that of a chapter 11 bankruptcy trustee in the United States. This action, which was filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina and transferred here by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, alleges in substance that Bank of America Corporation and affiliates*fn2 (collectively "BoA" or the "Bank") structured transactions that operated to defraud the Parmalat Debtors and their investors. The defendants move to dismiss the action for failure to state a claim and to join indispensable parties.*fn3

  I. The Complaint

  The thrust of the complaint, the well-pleaded factual allegations of which are presumed true for purposes of this motion, is that BoA assisted the Parmalat Debtors, their affiliates (collectively "Parmalat" or the "Company") and these companies' managers in "structuring and executing a series of complex, mostly off-balance sheet, financial transactions that were deliberately designed to conceal Parmalat's insolvency."*fn4 The Bank's "knowing assistance ensured that Parmalat's financial statements were false and misleading. . . . The eventual result of this deception was Parmalat's bankruptcy[.]"*fn5 According to the complaint:
"[k]eeping Parmalat's actual financial condition secret was crucial to the ability of certain Parmalat insiders . . . to maintain an investment grade credit rating for Parmalat. This allowed them to continue to raise additional financing for (a) their massive acquisition campaign, (b) their equally massive looting of the company and (c) their effort to keep the company afloat amid a mounting wave of losses, debts and disappearing funds."*fn6
A. Specific Transactions

  1. December 1997 Credit Agreement with Venezuelan Subsidiary

  On December 16, 1997, BoA entered into an $80 million five-year credit agreement with one of Parmalat's Venezuelan subsidiaries. The parties did not disclose a side letter that gave BoA additional guarantees, a $120,000 "Arrangement Fee," and interest beyond the publicly-disclosed rate. In other words, the transaction made Parmalat appear healthier and more credit-worthy than BoA knew that it was.*fn7 2. September 1998 Loans Secured by Cash Raised Through Private Placements of Debt*fn8

  On September 29, 1998, BoA entered into an $80 million eight-year credit agreement with two of Parmalat's Venezuelan subsidiaries and a $100 million credit agreement with a Brazilian subsidiary. The loans were secured by cash deposits made by Eurofood IFSC Limited ("Eurofood"), an Irish Parmalat subsidiary, in the entire amounts of the respective loans. Eurofoods obtained the funds through issuance of eight-year notes to institutional investors in the United States in private placements arranged by BoA. In other words, the flow of funds in substance was from the investors to the South American subsidiaries. BoA had no risk, but when Parmalat's troubles came to light in December of 2003, BoA foreclosed on the collateral for the loan to the Venezuelan subsidiaries.

  The fact that the loans were secured by cash put up by Parmalat was not disclosed publicly. Consequently, the purchasers of the eight-year notes did not know that they were contributing collateral for BoA loans. Nor did the purchasers of Parmalat's publicly-traded securities know that Parmalat had approximately $180 million less available cash than its financial statements indicated. Side letters that increased the fees and interest payable to BoA also were not disclosed, thus further distorting Parmalat's financial picture.*fn9 In addition, the actual purpose of the Venezuela loans was to extinguish debt under the December 16, 1997 agreement — not, as the public disclosure suggested, "to fund import/export activities by the Venezuelan companies."*fn10 Finally, the complaint alleges that Parmalat, starting in September 2001, made premium payments on a new credit risk insurance policy. The payments, which totaled $20 million, were deposited to an account controlled by BoA officers, rather than paid to the underwriter of the policy.*fn11

  3. October 1999 Credit Agreement with Mexican Subsidiary

  On October 12, 1999, BoA signed a $25 million credit agreement with a Mexican subsidiary of Parmalat. Again, the loan was collateralized with approximately $25.5 million in cash deposited by a Parmalat entity. The complaint alleges a complicated series of transfers, but the end result was that the money moved from one Parmalat entity to another. BoA had no exposure but received an annual interest spread and fees. In December of 2003, the Bank foreclosed on the collateral.*fn12

  4. $300 Million Equity Investment in Administracao*fn13

  BoA allegedly structured a set of transactions pursuant to which $300 million of privately placed debt issued by a Brazilian Parmalat subsidiary was disguised as an equity investment. In particular, BoA created two special purpose entities (SPEs) that purchased $300 million worth of stock, equivalent to an 18 percent stake, in Parmalat Administracao S.A. ("Administracao"). The SPEs in turn issued four-year notes that were purchased by BoA, institutional investors in the United States, and another Parmalat subsidiary.*fn14 Administracao booked $130 million of the $300 million as equity. The remaining $170 million was booked as goodwill "and then funneled to Wishaw Trading, a Uruguayan shell entity controlled by the Tanzi family, for the benefit of unknown parties."*fn15 (Calisto Tanzi was Parmalat's founder and former chief executive officer,*fn16 and certain members of his family served as officers, directors, or advisors of the Company.)*fn17 Furthermore, Parmalat never accounted for $150 million repaid to BoA in connection with these transactions.*fn18

  Luca Sala, a BoA employee, advised Parmalat in December 1999 how to describe the transaction in a press release so that it would appear to be equity rather than debt. The appraisal value of Administracao used in the press release, denominated in dollars, was inappropriately high, in part because the parties used an old report prepared before the Brazilian currency was devalued.*fn19

  In September 2001, Parmalat gave the SPEs put options that gave them the right to sell the Administracao shares for amounts that would retire the notes.*fn20 When Parmalat's troubles came to light, BoA attempted to exercise the SPEs' puts. BoA then forced the SPEs and a Parmalat entity into liquidation proceedings in the Caymans, allegedly to frustrate Bondi's restructuring efforts and an investigation of BoA's officials.*fn21

  5. December 2001 Credit and Interest Rate Swap Agreements with Chilean and African Parmalat Subsidiaries

  Under a set of agreements dated December 14, 2001, BoA made a series of loans to Parmalat subsidiaries — $25 million to an entity that the plaintiffs call "Parmalat Chile," $20 million to "Parmalat South Africa," and $15 million to "Parmalat Africa." At the same time, BoA and Parmalat Africa signed what purported to be an interest rate swap agreement, which effectively required that BoA pay $5.2 million each year to a Swiss bank account ostensibly owned by Parmalat Africa. Side letters required Parmalat Chile and Parmalat South Africa to pay BoA additional interest on their loans approximately equal to the BoA's annual $5.2 million payments to Parmalat Africa's ostensible bank account.*fn22 The account, however, was not Parmalat Africa's. Instead it "has been linked to Bank of America officials."*fn23 Moreover, the swap agreement was not in actual substance a swap. It specified "no currency or interest rate exchanges and offered the counterparties no ability to hedge."*fn24 In other words, the agreements were a device for Parmalat to make illicit payments to BoA officials. In August 2003, the Bank asked Parmalat to guarantee the $60 million of credit extended under the December 14, 2001 agreements and since then has attempted to foreclose on the loans and threatened to force insolvency proceedings in the relevant countries.*fn25

  6. December 2001 $80 Million Loan Secured by Funds Raised Through BoA's Sale of Notes*fn26

  On December 20, 2001, BoA entered into a set of transactions pursuant to which it extended an $80 million loan to Parmalat that was secured by the proceeds of a private placement of notes issued by a Parmalat entity to institutional investors. As with some of the other transactions reviewed above, BoA assumed no risk but received fees and an interest spread and later foreclosed on the $80 million of collateral.*fn27

  7. Private Placements in General

  BoA placed $1.3 billion of debt in the United States on behalf of various Parmalat entities. Parmalat surreptitiously purchased many of its own bonds, a circumstance that was hidden by the use of sham entities that BoA helped Parmalat create and that reduced BoA's exposure.*fn28 B. Causes of Action

  The complaint asserts counts for (1) fraud, (2) aiding and abetting constructive fraud, (3) negligent misrepresentation, (4) aiding and abetting breach of fiduciary duty, (5) diversion of corporate assets, (6) unjust enrichment, (7) violation of North Carolina's Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act, (8) deepening insolvency, (9) unlawful civil conspiracy, and violations of (10) Section 75-1.1 of the North Carolina General Statutes, which prohibits "[u]nfair methods of competition in or affecting commerce, and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce," (11) the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations ("RICO") statutes,*fn29 and (12) the North Carolina RICO Act.*fn30

  II. The Standard

  As a general rule, a court deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion accepts as true all well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint and draws all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor.*fn31 Dismissal is inappropriate "unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.*fn32 Where a complaint alleges fraud, however, the plaintiff is held to a more exacting standard. Rule 9(b) requires that the circumstances constituting fraud be stated with particularity, which means, among other things, that the complaint must "(1) specify the statements that the plaintiff contends were fraudulent, (2) identify the speaker, (3) state where and when the statements were made, and (4) explain why the statements were fraudulent."*fn33

  III. Threshold Matters

  A. Choice of Law

  The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation transferred this action here from the Western District of North Carolina pursuant to Section 1407 of Title 28 of the U.S. Code. In such circumstances, a transferee court in the Second Circuit applies its own interpretation of federal law, not that of the transferor court.*fn34 To the extent that the action involves issues ...


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