ECONOMY

Laidlaw, active in ASE’s 1999 bubble, faces bankruptcy

On December 24, Laidlaw Global Corp declared to the United States’ Securities and Exchange Commission that it had transferred its brands to a limited liability company for a small sum and that it plans to change name. The same announcement said that the company had lost a legal battle with Pullman Bank which had demanded money over some leasing agreements and that, together with another litigation by Information Leasing Corp, threatened its viability. Laidlaw’s name is widely known among Greek retail investors: Through a subsidiary, Laidlaw Global Securities, it had been involved in the 1999 Athens Stock Exchange bubble market and had been behind most of the stocks that rallied spectacularly, only to crash leaving thousands of investors stranded. Laidlaw Global Securities has been the recipient of one of the highest fines ever imposed by Greece’s Capital Market Commission. Some of the bubble stocks Laidlaw promoted were Intersat, Tassoglou-Delonghi and Electra. The parent company acted as the middleman in the acquisition of US housing developer Newmark Holdings by the Greek construction company Olympic Technical, notorious since last week as the beneficiary of a piece of legislation tailored to measure by former Deputy Economy Minister Christos Pachtas, who has since resigned and has seen his career end prematurely, along with that of nine other Socialist MPs who were barred from running in the March 7 election. Olympic Technical was also among the big beneficiaries of the 1999 ASE bubble. Then Laidlaw President Larry Horner, an engineering professor who happened to count a son of Olympic Technical founder Constantine Steggos among his pupils, was personally involved in the acquisition of Newmark Homes. During Laidlaw’s big involvement in the Greek market, its chairman of the board was Anastassios Karayiannis. Karayiannis, once a keynote speaker at an Athens conference sponsored by the Economist Intelligence Unit, is now on the run. Although Laidlaw evacuated its offices in Athens hastily, it still denies any wrongdoing. Laidlaw Global Securities went bankrupt in April 2003, followed by Laidlaw Pacific, active in Asia, and Laidlaw International SA, the French subsidiary.