Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Only in Belgium

Wall Street Journal report on the Fortis shareholder rebellion -- as the story emphasizes, these are widely dispersed ordinary shareholders resigned to having lost what for them is a lot of money:

Thousands took the day off to crowd the Heysel complex in north Brussels built for the 1958 World's Fair. Organizers had expected 3,000 shareholders. Over 7,000 showed up, Fortis said, the biggest assembly ever. They represented 23% of the 2.3 billion shares outstanding, said Fortis officials.

There were so many people that organizers set up two overflow viewing halls. At 11 a.m., they began pouring free coffee, juice and wine.

Raymond Cappart, 71, chugged down a glass of red. "My wife told me not to drink, but I'm 70, and I'm not American," he says. "I'm mad." Mr Cappart, a retired bank employee, says he has lost most of the 150,000 euros he invested in Fortis in the 1990s, after he retired. "Why in Belgium can't the government be upfront and not dishonest?" he asked. "I'm mad."

At noon, organizers rolled out thousands of cheese, tuna and crab sandwiches. "We had couscous at the last general assembly," says Laurent Bosquet. The 28-year-old invested 12,000 euros in Fortis last summer.

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