The former boss of scandal-hit French nursing home operator Orpea has come under fire after it emerged he sold shares in the group ahead of the publication of a book alleging residents were mistreated.
Orpea, one of Europe’s biggest listed care home groups, is under investigation by authorities after The Gravediggers, a book by journalist Victor Castanet published in January, alleged the company systematically cut corners, including rationing adult nappies, to save money at the 370 or so nursing homes it operates in France.
Orpea’s former chief executive Yves Le Masne — who was fired on Sunday — sold almost €590,000 of shares in the company at the end of July, filings from French regulator the Autorité des Marchés Financiers (AMF) show.
That was just weeks after Orpea received detailed questions about allegations contained in Castanet’s book when he contacted it for comment, France’s weekly Le Canard Enchaîné newspaper reported on Wednesday.
Le Masne did not respond to requests for comment. Orpea’s new chief executive Philippe Charrier told BFM TV it was a matter for his predecessor and that “authorities would examine the case”.
“He may have had good reasons but I will not judge this in the place of authorities,” Charrier added.
Le Masne had sold blocks of shares in the past. The July sale was at €107.85 a share. The stock price has collapsed to about €40 per share since the allegations came to light.
Brigitte Bourguignon, a French government minister, said she was “even more disgusted” by the situation surrounding Orpea after Le Masne’s share sale came to light.
“There will be detailed investigations (of all the allegations),” Bourguignon told LCI television on Wednesday, adding they would focus on the finances of Orpea and conditions in its homes.
The AMF declined to comment on whether it would open its own investigation. Orpea has also denied another of Castanet’s allegations: that he was offered a bribe by the company to stop his investigation.
The Orpea scandal has erupted as France is in the throes of a presidential election campaign.
Rightwing candidate Valérie Pécresse of Les Républicains said she would seek to overhaul the sector with stricter rules on how for-profit care homes were run. Communist party candidate Fabien Roussel on Wednesday called on the government to “expropriate” Orpea’s care homes.
Additional reporting by Leila Abboud