* Deloitte to pay $8.5 mln, Grant Thornton $6.5 mln
* Auditors accused of aiding multi-billion-dollar fraud
By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK, Nov 19 Two former auditors of
Parmalat SpA (PLT.MI) agreed to pay $15 million to settle a
class-action lawsuit by U.S. equity investors over their roles
in the Italian dairy company's 2003 collapse.
Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu will pay $8.5 million and Grant
Thornton International will pay $6.5 million to settle,
documents filed Thursday with in Manhattan federal court show.
The case was brought by several funds on behalf of
thousands of investors who said they lost money from Parmalat's
"It is very rare that worldwide coordinating audit networks
enter into settlements like what we have," said James Sabella,
a lawyer at Grant & Eisenhofer PA in New York representing the
investors, in an interview.
Lead plaintiffs include Hermes Focus Asset Management
Europe Ltd, Cattolica Partecipazioni SpA, Capital & Finance
Asset Management, Societe Moderne des Terrassements Parisiens
and Solotrat, court documents show.
Deloitte and Grant Thornton did not immediately return
calls seeking comment.
The settlement requires approval by U.S. District Judge
Lewis Kaplan, who has overseen much of the Parmalat-related
litigation in the United States. Sabella said approval could
come in the first quarter of 2010.
Parmalat's collapse sparked litigation worldwide against
dozens of banks, including Bank of America Corp (BAC.N) and
Citigroup Inc (C.N), by current Parmalat management and by
Deloitte agreed in January 2007 to pay $149 million to
settle with Parmalat itself. Parmalat has appealed Kaplan's
dismissal in September of its lawsuit against Grant Thornton.
The U.S. equity investors believed they suffered $138.2
million of damages, but Sabella said their claims might have
been reduced by earlier settlements. He also said taking their
case to a jury could have been "full of difficulties."
Burdened by about 14 billion euros ($20.9 billion) of debt,
Parmalat filed for insolvency protection in Italy in December
2003, after uncovering a 4 billion euro ($6 billion) hole in
its balance sheet. Parmalat was restructured and relisted on
the Milan bourse in 2005.
The case is In re Parmalat Securities Litigation, U.S.
District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 04-1653.
(1 euro = $1.492)
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)