Reykjavik District Court acquittals last autumn in the Exeter case were a major blow to the Office of the Special Prosecutor. Thursday June 7 the High Court came to a radically different conclusion. Jon Thorsteinn Jonsson, ex-chairman of the board of Byr, a saving society and Byr’s CEO Ragnar Gudjonsson were sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison, guilty of breach of fiduciary duty. The case of the third banker, CEO of MP Bank Styrmir Thor Bragason, was sent back to the District Court. Following this ruling, Byr must be considering if to sue these men for damages.
This ruling will have a major impact on other cases to come – it’s clear that there are other cases of breach of fiduciary duty in the Icelandic financial system before the collapse of the three major banks in autumn of 2008. This also means that the law related to this issue is robust enough for the court to rule on. And it means that there will be other bankers who now will be contemplating on earlier deeds and possible ramification.
It also shows the Icelandic authorities are serious about bringing cases related to the banks to court. And the latest ruling is a severe blow to the District Court. Interestingly, the District Court judge who acquitted the three bankers is the same who acquitted Jon Asgeir Johannesson and others in the Baugur case in 2005.
What was the Exeter case about? Read about it here, on the Exeter case as Icelandic banking in a nutshell, about bankers who abused their position to save themselves and their friends from losses - and here, on the earlier ruling. And here is the High Court ruling, in Icelandic only.