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Russia biggest lender Sberbank hit with corporate raiding lawsuit in US court

January 25, 13:09 UTC+3 NEW YORK

The preliminary hearing is scheduled for April 20

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© Alexander Ryumin/TASS

NEW YORK, January 25. /TASS/. Russia’s largest savings bank Sberbank is facing hostile takeover charges in the US, according to the documents from a New York court obtained by TASS.

Based on the documents, in November 2016, the US-based PPF Management LLC filed a relevant lawsuit against Sberbank, the bank’s CEO Herman Gref, as well as Promsvyazbank and number of other Russian legal and physical entities with the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

$750 mln as compensation

The defendants are required to pay at least $750 mln, namely $500 mln as compensation for incurred damage and $250 mln as a compensation for moral harm.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Sergey Poymanov and Irina Podgornaya, controlling shareholders in the Pavlovskgranit company, one of the largest granite producers in Europe.

According to the plaintiffs, the defendants "conspired to take advantage of a market downturn" in order to conduct a hostile takeover of Pavlovskgranit. They also claim that the defendants tried to eliminate the company as a competitor.

"While pretending to offer realistic restructuring options, they purposefully maneuvered Mr. Poymanov into a position where he was essentially trapped," according to the complaint.

The document also said that Sberbank CEO Gref "used his reputation and influence in the government to shield Defendants’ actions from the investigations and reviews of the Federal Anti-monopoly Service."

The list of defendants also includes: the NEO Centre Consulting Group and its Vice President Oleg Gref, Sberbank Capital and its CEO Ashot Khachaturyants, co-owner of the National Non-Metallic Company Yury Zhukov and about twenty other companies and individuals. According to the complaint, Zhukov was the chief participant in the conspiracy.

Illegal operation conducted covertly from Russian authorities

According to the statement of claim, the defendants conducted the illegal operation covertly from the Russian authorities. The assets of Pavlovskgranit were put under Zhukov’s control. The defendants allegedly used offshore companies and nominees to exercise the illegal hostile takeover of the enterprise. US banks were also involved and, a part of the raised funds were invested in the United States. According to the court’s archives, the case file was closed to the public immediately after the lawsuit was filed.

On December 23, 2016, PPF Management LLC filed a motion for disclosure of these documents. On January 6, the court upheld the motion and allegedly subpoenas were sent to the defendants.

The preliminary hearing is scheduled for April 20. It will take place in the New York county of Manhattan and Judge Paul Gardephe will be presiding. According to the court’s data, attorneys from several New York law firms will be representing the defendant’s interests.

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