International audit networks Deloitte Global and Grant Thornton International (GTI) face fresh legal challenges in Italy that are expected to be brought forward by a group of more than 4,000 European Parmalat investors.
The lawsuit, which also targets several major banks, is set to be filed in Milan by European shareholder group Deminor and Italian consumer rights group Altroconsumo. Deminor said it advised its clients to bring a new civil action in Italy against Deloitte & Touche (US and International), Grant Thornton (US and International), Citibank, Bank of America, UBS, Nextra, Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank.
In a press statement, Deminor claimed that “pieces of evidence” proved Deloitte Global and GTI participated in numerous schemes aimed at defrauding Parmalat investors.
The investor advocate alleged the two international networks hid information on the real financial status of the Parmalat group and the situation was allowed to deteriorate as the dairy company pursued a number of transactions.
A GTI spokesperson said the network remained very confident of its position in the Parmalat matter. “Grant Thornton International and Grant Thornton US would defend any case brought against them, however Grant Thornton International is a non-practising, not-for-profit umbrella organisation and neither Grant Thornton International nor Grant Thornton US provided audit services to Parmalat,” she said.
Deloitte Global declined to comment as the suit had not been filed.
In a separate case, Parmalat initiated proceedings against GTI and Deloitte Global in 2004 after defaulting on more than €14 billion (then worth $17.2 billion) in debt – the largest bankruptcy case in European history.
A judge in the District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed these claims against Deloitte Global, GTI and the networks’ US firms in July 2007. He ruled foreign investors could not take part in the US-based class action filed against the two audit networks.