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Arkéa’s independence project in the rut – Economy

Five years later the great demonstration of Brest in favor of autonomy Crédit Mutuel Arkéa, the new offensive of the National Confederation of Crédit Mutuel, the central body of the group, puts the independence project back in the news despite a sign of delay that came this Thursday from Paris. The Confederation will give itself the time to negotiate with Arkéa: the decision will not be taken at the board of directors at the end of January but at the next, scheduled for early February. The departure of the management team and the withdrawal of President Jean-Pierre Denis had nevertheless led most observers to conclude that the “Freedom” project had been abandoned. Not for the new general manager of the banking and financial group of Relecq-Kerhuon. ” This crisis made it necessary to put on pause our exchanges with the regulator (editor’s note, the European Central Bank) ”, repeats Helene bernicot, confirming the inclusion of the project in the 2024 strategic plan.

The ECB not seized

However, discussions with the ECB never went beyond technical issues, according to our information. “To date, the ECB has not officially received a request for disaffiliation,” wrote the ECB official responsible for supervising Arkéa last December, in a letter which Le Télégramme has read. And the Ministry of the Economy told the National Assembly in 2018 that it did not intend to change the law governing Crédit Mutuel. Result: in the event of separation, Arkéa will not be able to maintain its mutualist status.

Is the independence project doomed to failure? “The project failed,” said a Breton deputy well aware of the matter. It has been going on for ages. There was a whole series of appeals and Crédit mutuel Arkéa management lost each time ”. “The mobilization has not crumbled”, defends Hélène Bernicot, even if the one who carried the project internally, General Manager Ronan Le Moal, left a year ago.

To convince, the group can rely on his good results and his hires. The concern has been spreading for several months in Aquitaine, one of the two federations, with Brittany, carried by Crédit Mutuel Arkéa. Composed of administrators of local banks in the South-West, a group campaigns in favor of a Crédit Mutuel Arkéa autonomous in its management, while remaining in the Confederation. The millions of euros invested in sponsorship for the Arkéa brand do not change this.

“Arkéa is never heard”

The conflict started in 2011 when Michel Lucas, just appointed to the presidency of the National Confederation of Crédit Mutuel, decides to abolish the post of vice-president occupied by the representative of Arkéa. The arrival of Lillois Nicolas Théry, a former CFDT, to succeed Michel Lucas in 2016 will not allow the dialogue to resume.

The problem remains unresolved for Hélène Bernicot given the weight of the Federal Alliance within the confederation. “In fact, Arkéa is never heard. This is what we denounce. We see ourselves imposed on decisions taken in Paris. The central organ, we recognize it. The problem is that his decisions are binding on us ”.

A false problem for opponents of independence. “As long as the directors do not choose to join the Federal Alliance, nothing will happen”, underlines Julien Bidault, CFDT central delegate of Crédit Mutuel Arkéa, the group’s leading union.

Divorce over a billion euros

Before being able to leave the Confederation, Arkéa will have to obtain the agreement of the regulators in a context more favorable to marriages than to divorces. Hélène Bernicot said she was confident: “We are very solid and attentive to solvency ratios. The difference is that we believe in an alternative model of an agile bank that decides on its territory “.

Agreement obtained, the Breton bank should do without the Crédit Mutuel brand, the mutualist status and compensate the Confederation which would then be forced to create a new network in Brittany and Aquitaine. A cost estimated at over one billion euros is described as fanciful by Hélène Bernicot. Quite realistic for the former Keeper of the Seals Marylise Lebranchu, member of CM Arkéa opposed to the project.

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A series of lost lawsuits

In October 2014, Jean-Pierre Denis called Michel Lucas. The tone is firm and the leader sure of his facts: “I am giving you the weekend to grant independence to Crédit Mutuel Arkéa, otherwise I will attack in court”. Faced with the refusal of the president of the National Confederation of Credit Mutuel, the challenges of the central body actually rain the following months. Arkéa’s only victory will be to block internal reform within the Confederation. A 2016 judgment, confirmed on appeal in 2018, refuses the transformation of the head structure of an association law 1901 into a cooperative company with variable capital.

But, for the thirty appeals brought by Arkéa to establish its autonomy, all were the subject of a decision of rejection by the courts. With the exception of a summary issued on June 24, 2019, on which the group relies for the use of the Arkéa brand outside its mutual activities.

Arkéa loses its remedies

The accusations of breach of trust and illegal taking of interest against Michel Lucas and his director general, Alain Fradin were dismissed by the Tribunal de grande instance of Paris on June 20, 2017. Concerning the prerogatives of the central organ of the Confederation , the Court of Cassation ruled in 2018 against Arkéa who challenged them. Just as the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled on October 2, 2019 that the ECB was entitled to supervise Arkéa via the Confederation. The Competition Authority also dismissed Arkéa on December 21, 2016 of its appeals on the group’s operations. His appeal on the territorial organization of Crédit Mutuel was dismissed by a judgment of the Paris Administrative Court of Appeal on March 8, 2018. The Court of Cassation finally rejected its appeal on October 14, 2020 against the control of the Crédit Mutuel brand by the Confederation. A relative of the Breton group is sorry: “A personal antagonism has arisen between Jean-Pierre Denis and the directors of Crédit Mutuel. The fight is difficult, it is the struggle of the earthen pot against the iron pot ”.

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