The association is also inquiring whether its subsidiary U.S. Foodservice, Columbia, MD, suppliers are liable for the investors' financial damages.
However, Ahold, which was fell into controversy when it revealed massive accounting irregularities at U.S. Foodservice at the start of 2003, called the demand unfounded and said it would strongly defend itself.
The VEB lodged the legal proceedings with the business chamber of the Amsterdam Appeals Court in an attempt to determine who was responsible for the recent fraud scandal, an NOS news report said. Ahold stocks lost two-thirds of their value when news of the scandal broke and the VEB wants to investigate whether the multinational retailer is guilty of mismanagement. It is also interested to learn if compensation payments to shareholders are possible.
In its court documents the association claimed that Ahold directors and commissioners did not try hard enough to recoup the financial damages of the fraud scandal, totaling almost EUR 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion), from, for example, company accountants and U.S. Foodservice suppliers.
It has urged Ahold shareholders to side with the legal bid. The request was made to those who bought shares between Jan. 1, 2000 and Feb. 24, 2003, the date that Ahold announced the accountancy fraud.
Ahold has since revised its 2000 and 2001 annual accounts and discovered more than 700 irregularities. The 2002 account was finally published late last year after several delays.
VEB director Peter Paul de Vries claims that Ahold only adjusted its profit figures when revising its national accounts, but claimed it remained unclear who was responsible for the irregularities. The role of the board of directors also remains unknown, he said.
De Vries said Ahold's claim that several U.S. Foodservice staff members were responsible for the accounting fraud is not plausible. Nor has he excluded the possibility that Ahold's accountant, Deloitte & Touche, also played a role in the scandal, news agency ANP reported.
Meanwhile, new Ahold chief Anders Moberg recently unveiled a new strategy to help restore the retailer to financial prosperity. Ahold has issued EUR 3 billion euros ($3.8 billion) in new shares to partially pay off its11 billion euros ($14 billion) in debt.
The company also hopes to sell off parts of its business activities for 2.5 billion euros ($3.2 billion).