Orange CEO Richard Cleared Over Decade-Old Payout Scandal
Orange CEO Stephane Richard was cleared by Paris judges in a scandal related to his role at the Finance Ministry in a 403 million euros arbitration payout a decade ago, according to Bloomberg.
There was no proof that Richard took part in any fraud, Presiding Judge Christine Mee said as she read the verdict. The panel of three judges also cleared businessman Bernard Tapie, who prosecutors said benefited from the alleged fraud.
“I’m obviously very happy that my innocence has finally been recognized by the Justice system,” Richard, 57, said in a statement after the verdict. Tapie’s lawyer, Herve Temime, said the allegations “didn’t hold up.”
The verdict could have triggered a top management shakeup at Orange after Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said last year that Richard would have to resign if convicted. Richard has led Orange for about a decade, during which he calmed labor unrest following a wave of employee suicides and saw the company through a sustained competitive assault by low-cost telecom challenger Iliad.
Orange employees are “relieved” that Richard will stay on as CEO, the CFE-CGC union said in a statement. Richard will be able to continue his mandate in a “more serene way,” and dedicate himself fully to challenges including fiber deployment and 5G, it said.