Morgan Stanley loses report-rigging case

Jeantet & Associés has won a landmark victory for Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH) against Morgan Stanley, which could pave the way for companies to sue analysts for publishing negative research. Morgan Stanley is set to appeal the decision.

On 12 January, a French court ordered Gide Loyrette Nouel client Morgan Stanley to pay €30m (£20.7m) in damages for critical reports about LVMH. The judgment stated that Morgan Stanley sabotaged LVMH’s stock price to enhance the prospects of its investment banking client and LVMH’s main competitor Gucci. The bank helped Gucci ward off a hostile takeover by LVMH in the late 1990s.

The court ruled that Morgan Stanley had issued the hostile reports between 1999 and 2002 while acting as Gucci’s investment banker.

The judgment follows the $1.4bn (£765m) global settlement between New York Attorney-General Elliott Spitzer, the Securities and Ex-change Commission and investment banks (including Morgan Stanley) on the biased research issue in 2002, referred to in the French verdict.

The ruling queries whether analysts and investment banks can be truly independent or whether this business model causes a fundamental conflict of interests.

Critics claim that unscrupulous corporates will now have the legal muscle to force analysts to make favourable reports.