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Publicis Groupe drawn into Rato scandal in Spain

Spain is currently embroiled in a financial scandal dating back to the financial crisis and one of the leading figures reportedly involved is Rodrigo Rato, a former Spanish finance minister and, after that, managing director of the International Monetary Fund from 2004 to 2007, when he was succeeded by another colourful character Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

imagen.phpRato (left) then went on to be president of Bankia, formed from six banks including Caja Madrid. Bankia declared a profit of over €300m one year only to revise it the following year to a loss of €3bn. Rato is currently under investigation for fraud, concealment of assets and money laundering although he has not been arrested.

According to a report from the Spanish Treasury, two ‘publicity’ companies multiplied their contracts with Bankia after the arrival of Rato by – allegedly – paying a screen company which then sent the money on to entities controlled by Rato. The two companies are named as Zenith Media and Publicis Communications Spain, both part of Publicis Groupe.

Zenith’s whose invoicing is said to have risen from €150,000 in 2010 to €24m in 2011 and €16m in 2012. The invoicing fell dramatically with the departure of Rato.

Now this may be legitimate, if somewhat unorthodox. Bankia was a new bank with a need to market itself, etc.

At the heart of this seems to be a company called Albisa Investments and Advice which doesn’t seem to have done very much apart from collect money, a large part of which is alleged to have gone to Rato via various other companies. A €420,000 investment by Rato in a Berlin hotel is mentioned.

This scandal is similar in many respects to the one Interpublic’s Lowe network is embroiled in in Brazil, which also involves payments to senior officials through the liberal use of ‘commissions’ – or backhanders.

It would be interesting to know what exactly Zenith, for example, did for Bankia in 2011 and 2012.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.

One comment

  1. Zenith did a rebranding from Caja MAdrid to Bankia name and an IPO in those years, Now you know

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