June 15, 2018 / 12:10 PM / a month ago

Italy court rules it cannot hear Morgan Stanley derivatives case

ROME (Reuters) - An Italian administrative court has ruled that it cannot hear a case over derivatives brought against Morgan Stanley (MS.N) that included a request for 2.7 billion euros ($3.1 billion) in damages from the U.S. investment bank.

The corporate logo of financial firm Morgan Stanley is pictured on the company's world headquarters in New York, U.S. April 17, 2017. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

The ruling by the Court of Accounts published on Friday was made on April 19. A spokesman for Morgan Stanley declined to comment.

“This court does not have jurisdiction,” reads an excerpt from the ruling obtained by Reuters.

The administrative court can appeal. The state now has three months to bring the matter before a new tribunal if it so chooses.

Morgan Stanley had denied any wrongdoing and its lawyers had argued that a civil court should have had jurisdiction.

The case centers on Morgan Stanley derivative transactions made by the Italian state between 1995 and 2005 and terminated in December 2011 and January 2012.

The interest rate derivatives were meant as a form of insurance for the Italian government, one of the most heavily indebted in Europe, in the event that market rates rose.

Instead, after the 2008-2009 global financial crisis, interest rates plunged, and the state incurred large losses on its derivative positions as it was able to borrow more cheaply in the bond markets.

State prosecutors had argued that some contracts negotiated with Morgan Stanley were speculative in nature and contained termination clauses that were overly advantageous to the bank.

“It cannot be held that the derivatives contracts being contested constitute a violation of law,” reads an excerpt from the 80-page document that explains the ruling.

Morgan Stanley has repeatedly said the claim is groundless, and in August 2016 the bank rejected a settlement proposal from an Italian prosecutor for a one-off payment, a securities filing showed.

The case also included claims against former senior officials at Italy’s Treasury for a total of 1.18 billion euros. All the defendants have denied any wrongdoing.

($1 = 0.8624 euros)

Additional reporting by Pamela Barbaglia in London, writing by Steve Scherer; editing by Francesca Landini and Jason Neely

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