Scandal hits Italian bank

Italian banks have long had a questionable reputation, but even by Italian standards, having your CEO and finance director arrested for a liturgy of crimes, including embezzlement and market manipulation, and the whole board (bar one director) resigning, is good going.

Italian banks have long had a questionable reputation, but even by Italian standards, having your CEO and finance director arrested for a liturgy of crimes, including embezzlement and market manipulation, and the whole board (bar one director) resigning, is good going.

But this is what happened at Banca Popolare Italiana (BPI) this week. Milan prosecutors are investigating whether the group behaved illegally in its attempt to buy competitor Antonveneta in order to stop a Dutch division of ABN Amro from buying it. This is not the first scandal to hit the bank. In October, the shares plunged 20% in one day as it revealed e1.8bn of dubious financing.

But to the right predator, this "can full of worms" could be tasty, says Camilla Palladino on Breakingviews.com. If it can clean up this mess properly, it might prove an attractive target. The arrest of the CEO "isn't likely to open new holes in BPI's books," according to an analyst on Newratings.com. And if the price is right, "there would be rich irony", says Palladino, for while its troubles stem from acting to prevent a foreign takeover of an Italian bank, now "maybe it too will fall to a foreign bid".

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