Parmalat creditors gang up on Bondi

Additional Parmalat creditors are set to join an action launched by two French companies in the Italian administrative tribunal (TAR), challenging the appointment of special administrator Enrico Bondi.

The action also claims that a new law introduced in December, known as the ‘Marzano law’, which was specifically designed to speed up the administration process for Parmalat, is unconstitutional.

The challenge has been brought by two construction companies – Soc Moderne Des Terrassements Parisiens and Soc Solotrat – against Parmalat, Parmalat Finance, Bondi, and the Italian Minister of Productive Activities Antonio Marzano, who introduced the new law.

There was an initial hearing in early March, with the case now set down for 20 June.

“[Creditors] can [join] up to 20 days prior to the hearing on 10 June,” said Leah Dunlop, a partner in Lovells’ Rome office. “In practice, this means that creditors wishing to join the action will need to have taken the decision and instructed the lawyers by the middle of April.”

The companies are claiming that the Marzano law is unconstitutional because it adversely affects certain creditors and they are claiming that the appointment of Bondi is unlawful.

It is thought that the action has been brought because of political wrangling over the formation of a creditors’ committee, which still remains in limbo. Sources in the Italian market say it is unlikely that the action will be successful, but that the creditors are trying to gain some political leverage with Bondi.

“It’s very difficult because all of the creditors have different viewpoints,” said Dunlop. For example, those banks facing revocation orders may have very different interests from those banks that are not.

Indeed, it is understood that Bondi himself has concerns about the participation of banks that are themselves under investigation in the scandal and others which will be facing revocation actions.

However, the foreign banks and bondholders are understood to have found representatives and are believed to still be pressing for the formation of a committee, which they say they will put together without consulting Bondi or Marzano, the minister who must approve the plan.

This in turn could have a direct impact on the way the law firms acting on behalf of the creditors are paid (The Lawyer, 9 February). According to sources, it could be up to the committee – if it ever materialises – to decide on the distribution of legal fees. It seems more likely that Bondi will have the final say in who will earn what.

Bingham McCutchen, Clifford Chance, Linklaters, Studio Legale Mazzoni e Associate and Studio Legale Chiomenti are among the host of firms acting for the creditors.

Soc Moderne Des Terrassements Parisiens and Soc Solotrat are being advised by four partners from DMP, a Rome-based administrative boutique.

Gianni Origoni Grippo & Partners, the firm with the lion’s share of the work on the Parmalat administration, is advising Parmalat and Bondi on the hearing.

In other developments, Studio Lombardi, not Gianni, has been brought in by Bondi to advise on the revocation orders that will shortly be launched against certain banks. It is perhaps not surprising that this is one area in which Gianni is not acting. “It was clear since the beginning, when we were appointed by Mr Bondi, that we wouldn’t do anything that was going against the banks, because the banks are our clients,” said a Gianni spokesperson.

As one source at another firm put it: “Essentially, Gianni takes aim while another firm pulls the trigger.”

Allen & Overy has also played its role advising a group of Italian banks, led by UniCredito, on a short-term working capital line to enable Parmalat to remain functioning while the restructuring takes place.