12 March 2020
Business crime specialists Rahman Ravelli sees the case as a warning to other senior executives.
The ousted chief executive of Danske Bank has been personally targeted in an investor lawsuit in the legal fall-out from the bank’s Estonian money laundering scandal.
A Belgian law firm is arguing that Thomas Borgen withheld information about potential money laundering that eventually destroyed the market value of the bank. It has filed a legal complaint against Borgen, on behalf of 155 institutional investors, seeking damages of 358 million euros.
The move is just the latest in a series of legal proceedings brought against Danske – which is Denmark’s biggest bank – since its Estonian branch found itself the centre of a money laundering investigation involving approximately 200 billion euros. European and US prosecutors are investigating.
Danske’s market value has dropped by 50% since early 2018. Borgen, 55, was sacked late in 2018 and has had preliminary criminal charges brought against him by police in Denmark. Borgen ran the bank’s international operations at the time the Estonian scandal was happening.
The lawsuit against him alleges that investors were misled about the bank’s true situation from February 2014 onwards. It states that a 2018 report showed that the former CEO and other senior management figures had been briefed about the illegal activity in Estonia, which went on from 2007 to 2015, and the risks the bank was facing.
The fact that civil action has been brought against Thomas Borgen personally will be a sobering development for other company executives. Those who are responsible for ratifying the positions of their respective companies - especially where there may be concerns about the information in support - will certainly want to be assured that the declarations which they are responsible for are true and accurate. That is especially the case given the recent examples of company accounts being overstated.
Those who balance risk against reward and plough ahead regardless will always be at risk of criminal charges. And those who may have closed their minds to the reality of a situation should instead be looking to ensure that they are confirming the proper position.