FortisSometimes there’s a news story in the financial markets, which requires a lot of homework and flow charts to understand. It’s seductive to skip the whole issue and spend your time on other things. The mess around Fortis is a perfect example of a running news story I’ve decided to stop following. The shares are suspended anyway, I don’t own any of them nor am I planning to buy some in the future.

Fortis cut in four pieces

The bank insurer has its roots in three countries, a lot of different special divisions like the remains of ABN AMRO. A lot of politicians involved, lawyers and taxpayers money. And Madoff, too. The bank more or less failed in the fall of 2008, got split up between the Dutch government, BNP Paribas, Belgium and Luxembourg. You need three-dimensional flow charts to follow all the holdings and transfers.

Today’s real time news from the extraordinary meeting of shareholders proved to be a lot of fun, with an angry crowd of shareholders targeting the board. They turned down the carve up of the bank, making matters extremely complicated. The Dutch government announced today their purchase of Fortis Holland (including ABN AMRO) was a done deal. That’s very nice, but shareholders voted against it. And BNP Paribas may even leave the field altogether.

Report when it makes sense

Almost all the quotes of the CIA Superior in Coen Brother’s recent movie Burn After Reading apply to the Fortis mess as well. “Report back to me when it makes sense“. Hope to read a fine summary in the papers before Christmas.