Vivendi: Electronic vote may have been hacked

An electronic vote at Vivendi Universal SA’s shareholder meeting last Wednesday may have been hacked, throwing suspicion on shareholder votes at other companies using electronic voting technology, the company announced Sunday.

The company will withhold the dividend payment that was voted until the matter is resolved, and will organize another meeting in early June for the sole purpose of rerunning the same votes, it said in a statement.

The Paris entertainment, publishing, environmental services and telecommunication conglomerate first voiced its concerns about the vote in a statement late Friday.

Vivendi’s suspicions were raised by the abnormally large number of abstentions in votes on each of 19 resolutions at the meeting Wednesday, it said. The number of abstentions exceeded 20 per cent – and shareholders representing some 20 per cent of the votes cast were present at the meeting, where an electronic system was used to record their decisions, Vivendi said.

Some of the largest shareholders present, including Compagnie de Saint-Gobain SA, told Vivendi that the abstentions recorded did not reflect the actual electronic vote, despite confirmation on their voting machine control panel, the company said.

Bailiffs appointed to supervise the vote have placed the equipment used under seal. A preliminary inspection of the equipment revealed no signs of tampering, Vivendi said. However, it said that a small team with a transmitter-receiver and detailed knowledge of the protocols used by the wireless voting system could have fraudulently manipulated the vote.

Vivendi will ask the authorities on Monday to begin a criminal investigation into the matter, it said.

While the situation is serious for Vivendi shareholders, it has wider implications for other companies using electronic voting, the company said.