MILAN, March 27 The Italian government wants
state-controlled companies to eject from their boards any
director charged of financial crimes, in a drive to fight
corruption and improve corporate accountability.
A letter sent recently by the treasury to Eni, Enel
and Finmeccanica and other state-owned
groups, asks shareholders to toughen up their corporate
governance requirements in the company bylaws at upcoming
shareholder meetings due in April and May.
The letter, seen by Reuters, comes as the new government of
Matteo Renzi is trying to push through reforms aimed at
improving corporate transparency and making Italy a better place
for business. These include a proposal to cap the salary of top
managers of state-controlled companies.
Corporate Italy has been shaken by a string of corruption
scandals often involving alleged kickbacks to politicians and
Defence group Finmeccanica is grappling with several
corruption cases involving its former management.
And long-standing Eni CEO Paolo Scaroni, who has said he is
ready for a fourth mandate, is under investigation in a
corruption probe involving oil service company Saipem, which is
43 percent-owned by Italy's oil major.
Scaroni and Saipem deny any wrongdoing.
The letter says managers who have been indicted for crimes
against the public administration or financial crimes should be
barred from sitting on the board of state-owned companies even
before a first guilty verdict is passed.
A judicial conviction, even if not definitive, is also cause
for removal from the board without prompting a claim for
damages, the letter said.
It said, however, that the company still had the possibility
to call a shareholder meeting and vote to keep a director on the
board even if he or she faced a trial or had been convicted.
Italy's judicial system is so cumbersome and lengthy that a
final verdict may take more than a decade to come through, as in
the case of Parmalat, which collapsed due to a fraud
back in 2003 but saw a final ruling early in March this year.
The Treasury confirmed that the letter had been sent.
Utility Enel confirmed it was among those that had received the
Eni and Finmeccanica said they had already noted in their
2013 financial statements published this month that shareholders
would be called to amend company bylaws regarding the new
requirements for directors at their annual shareholder meetings.
(Reporting by Paola Arosio, writing by Silvia Aloisi;
Additional reporting by Stephen Jewkes and Lisa Jucca; Editing
by Elaine Hardcastle)