Soros found guilty of insider trading

March 24 | Updated: Mar 25 2005, 05:30am hrs
Billionaire investor George Soros was found guilty of insider trading by a French appeals court, upholding a 2002 conviction and threatening to prolong a 16-year legal affair.

The Paris appeals court ruled that Soross 1988 purchase of Societe Generale SA shares with the knowledge that the bank might be a takeover target broke French insider trading laws. The court on Thursday confirmed an earlier order asking Mr Soros to pay back his 2.2 million euros ($2.9 million) in gains. Because of the long time it has taken to bring the case to court, prosecutors hadnt asked for punitive damages.

Its a long and badly handled investigation that has led to a bad decision, said Jean-Michel Darrois of Darrois Villey Maillot Brochier, one of Mr Soross lawyers. The lawyer said Mr Soros will appeal the case at the Court de Cassation, the equivalent of the Supreme Court. Mr Soros wasnt present in the courtroom.

The verdict marks the only legal stain on Mr Soross 40-year investing career. It comes at a time when Mr Soros, 74, is no longer actively investing and has turned his attention to political and charitable activities. Mr Soros contributed $26.5 million to a failed effort to defeat President George Bush in last years US presidential elections.

Mr Soros maintains his innocence, said Michael Vachon, his spokesman. He will appeal this case. He is confident that he will ultimately be vindicated in this matter and that justice will be served.

Mr Soros has two options for appeal. At the Court de Cassation, his lawyers cant re-argue the facts of the case. They can only assert that the law was misinterpreted. He could also file a complaint at the Strasbourg, France- based European Court of Human Rights, arguing that the 14 years it took to bring the case to court violated his right to a speedy trial.

Mr Soros testified for two hours February 10 at the appeal courts hearing. Under questioning by Judge Jean-Baptiste Avel, he said he didnt consider the information that led him to buy Societe Generale shares to be confidential. I knew it wasnt known to the general public, but I didnt consider it privileged, he told the court.