Troubled media giant, Vivendi Universal has set a slot in June as the date for an extraordinary shareholder meeting after the results of last week's annual general meeting were thrown into doubt by suspicious electronic voting.
The company has not hesitated to allege interference and to describe it as fraudulent. "The malfunction is in all likelihood due to piracy of the voting system," it said in a statement. The piracy ,"could have been carried out by a small team armed with a transmitter-receiver and detailed knowledge of the procedures and technical protocols of electronic voting."
Vivendi said that it discovered the problem after last Wednesday's (Apr 24) meeting only when it noticed a surprisingly high abstention rate. It checked the electronic score and found that the votes cast electronically did not tally with the intentions of the financial institutions voting them.
The company said that the errors affected voting on all motions - not just the two most controversial issues; awarding stock options to senior executives and allowing capital increase without creating preferential rights for existing shareholders. It lost both votes.
Today (Monday, Apr 29) the company filed a complaint with the French courts alleging fraud by persons unknown. It said that the new meeting will take place in early June and that until then it would freeze payment of the one Euro per share dividend.
The voting debacle will do little to quell the turmoil surrounding the group since it announced the largest loss in French corporate history earlier this year and followed that by the loss of two key executives, Pierre Lescure and Denis Olivennes.
Shareholders at the annual general meeting last week confirmed the sacking of Lescure, a co-founder of the Canal Plus channel and its president.
Ironically, this may not be the first time that Vivendi has suffered from piracy. It believes that one of the major causes of losses at its Telepiu Italian pay-TV subsidiary result from pirated smart cards. The group has also begun legal action in the US against News Corp subsidiary NDS, which it claims has hacked codes for Canal Plus' set-top decoders and published them on the internet.