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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Le vrai « job » de Florence Woerth chez Clymène

by Pierre Ivorra

Florence Woerth’s Real ‘Job’ at Clymène

Translated Thursday 22 July 2010, by Kristina Wischenkamper and reviewed by Bill Scoble

The accounts of the company that manages 436 million euros worth of marketable securities for Liliane Bettencourt show that the company in question is a huge speculating machine. Until her recent resignation, Minister Eric Woerth’s wife was in charge of investing money, notably in those infamous ‘hedge funds’.

We have obtained a copy of Clymène’s accounts, a close reading of which gives rise to a number of questions. It seems clear that this holding company, of which Patrice de Maistre is CEO and Liliane Bettencourt President, has one sole function – speculating in financial markets, and making money out of money. Clymène, registered in Neuilly, near the home of the millionaire, has a portfolio of investment securities estimated at 436 million euros.

Rotten assets

What is the money invested in? Neither the auditors’ report on British company PricewaterhouseCoopers nor the progress report signed by Liliane Bettencourt herself specify this, although they lift a corner of the veil. The Accounting Principles and Methods Section states that investments are made in private equity funds and hedge funds that offer a high yield but also a high risk. Exactly how high? That we don’t know. We might note that the magnitude of the losses posted by Clymène in 2008 suggests that the company had significant ‘rotten’ speculative assets.
All hypotheses are possible and we might even ask whether, for example, the company joined in the speculation in 2009 against European government debt securities, including those of Greece. In total, investments made in 2009 brought in a net profit of 20 million euros against a loss of 66 million euros in 2008. Florence Woerth’s job at Clymène (she was hired in November 2007 by Patrice de Maistre at the request of Eric Woerth, current Minister of Labour) was competitively placing these investments in order to glean the greatest profit for Liliane Bettencourt’s fortune.

Another notable feature to emerge from the accounts is the very high nature of wages paid. In 2008, the gross earnings of the five employees of the company amounted to 1.5 million euros, an average of 300,000 per person per year or 25,000 euros per month. In 2009, the total payroll declined to 462,346 euros, a fall probably due to a downsizing of the number of those on the payroll, a number which this year has not been clarified.

A real cash cow

Clymène, however, is only a small part of the Bettencourt empire. It is a subsidiary of the much larger company Tethys . This holding company domiciled in the 8th arrondissement of Paris, also directed by Patrice de Maistre, but this time assisted by Jean-Pierre Meyers, husband of Frances Bettencourt, the daughter of the Bettencourts, brings together the equity of Liliane and Francoise Bettencourt in the world’s number 1 cosmetics company L’Oreal. In 2009 Tethys held 1.1 billion euros in equity, 118.5 million euros of investment securities, no debt, and 2.3 million euros in annual gross wages paid to three employees.

Over the last five years Tethys has generated more than 700 million euros of profit: 86m. in 2004, 112m. in 2006, 145m. in 2007, 192m. in 2008 and 180m. euros in 2009. The company is a real cash cow. Yet it has no real activity, turnover is just over 300,000 euros, everything is based on finance: 267m. euros of financial participation, 4m. euros of interest on loans granted to Clymène, nearly 10m. of foreign exchange gains and 485,000 euros in proceeds from disposals of marketable securities, giving a total of 281.5m. euros in financial products! Where does this windfall come from? 267 million euros are dividends paid in consideration of shares in L’Oreal owned by the Bettencourt family for the year 2008. Tethys SAS controls a 18.2% stake in the multinational. Indeed, over 90% of the real wealth of the company is made up of these securities. Let us make a further specific: the amount of attendance fees voted by members of the Supervisory Board for 2010 was 71,000 euros. A good year nevertheless!

A review of Tethys’ and Clymène’s official accounts confirms something very important about the role played by Florence Woerth in the nebulous Bettencourt affair: contrary to what has been declared, maintained, and printed, her job until her recent (forced) resignation was not managing Liliane Bettencourt’s estate. Her role was much more clear-cut. Her role was to invest this capital using every means available on the financial markets. Strictly speaking this is called speculation in securities.

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