Cyprus faces a lawsuit from close to 100 Greek investors who accuse the country of costing both depositors and bondholders of two banks millions of dollars in the wake of its financial crisis and 2013 bailout.
The law firms Grant & Eisenhofer, Kessler Topaz Meltzer & Check and Kyros Law, along with public international law firm Volterra Fietta, are representing the irate customers and filed a notice of dispute in the matter against the Republic of Cyprus, the attorneys said in a release announcing their action.
They’re seeking a recovery of all losses, which the attorneys said exceed $68 million.
Greece and Cyprus don’t historically get along, but a 1992 bilateral investment treaty is in place that requires an effort by both sides to work to settle their dispute without going to court for at least six months. If that is not possible, then a claim gets submitted for a binding arbitration solution through the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, something the plaintiffs’ attorneys said would begin in this case by mid-January 2015.
The plaintiffs are Greek citizens or live in Greece, and were either depositors or bondholders of Laiki Bank and the Bank of Cyprus, both of which faced a confiscation of funds after the country’s $13.6 billion European Union bailout in 2013. According to the plaintiffs’ attorneys, the claims connect to both Greece’s default on its bonds in 2012 and Cyprus’ response to its own financial crisis a year later.
The tricky part: Laiki Bank and the Bank of Cyprus allegedly snatched up huge volumes of Greek bonds, placing them at risk and leaving them to lose billions of euros after Greece defaulted. That left the Bank of Cyprus and Laiki bank, and many other entities that invested in Greece, at a big risk for insolvency.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys said in their release that the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund initially proposed a bailout that would have imposed major austerity and a levy on all bank accounts in Cyprus. The country’s parliament rejected this, voting instead for a revised deal that only smacked Laiki Bank and Bank of Cyprus bondholders and depositors, according to the plaintiffs’ attorneys. Other banks were left out of the equation, and Laiki Bank was actually wound down.
That is a major point of contention, as is the notion that insured deposits from Laiki Bank of up to 100,000 euros would be transferred to the Bank of Cyprus, leaving anything higher than that to be confiscated. Bank of Cyprus bondholders and depositors with funds over 100,000 euros, on the other hand, faced a levy that hit close to 48%, the attorneys alleged, and they also dealt with restrictions on withdrawing their funds. Bank of Cyprus bondholders got hit, too, having to see their convertible bonds and securities replaced with Class D shares at a conversion rate that left them with a fraction of their money, the plaintiffs claimed.
Source: Plaintiffs’ announcement