Wswiss hen Regulators announced Swiss bank Credit Suisse will be rescued from the brink of collapse on March 19, and shareholders of the troubled bank appear to have been lucky to avoid a total loss of their investment. Yet if any of the 1,700 people who packed into Zurich’s Hallenstadion on April 4 for the company’s final annual shareholder meeting were relieved, they weren’t showing it. Tickets to this historic event were cheap: the terms of the bailout agreement were not approved by shareholders, valuing Credit Suisse shares at just 0.76 Swiss francs ($0.84).
The company’s Chairman Axel Lehmann and CEO Ulrich Körner delivered opening remarks. A vote to grant bosses extra pay and release them from responsibility for actions taken in the previous financial year was canceled along with the bank’s dividend. Five board members did not seek re-election. The remaining seven have the daunting task of guiding the bank through its twilight years before the deal closes later this year. Mr Lehmann survived a shareholder vote despite opposition from proxy adviser Glass Lewis and majority shareholder Norges Bank.
When it came time for shareholders to speak, the arena became a courtroom. Some advised him about the many failures in Lehman’s recent history. Others are sad. One joked that he didn’t bring a gun to the meeting. Another wondered whether company bosses could have been crucified for their actions in the Middle Ages. A man walks up to the podium with a handful of empty walnut shells.Young attendees walking through rows with bags of chocolates, wearing branded Ton– Shirts for the brutal market in financial disaster memorabilia.
As expected, a representative of Credit Suisse’s largest shareholder, the National Bank of Saudi Arabia, was not on stage to speak. The turmoil of recent months has wiped out four-fifths of the value of its 1.4 billion Swiss franc investment and has scuttled the career of its chairman, whose indecent comments about the bank on March 15 led to subsequent Loss of confidence.
Instead, a large number of Swiss shareholders shook their heads in unison. Non-institutional Swiss owners make up 87% of Credit Suisse’s total, even though they hold a fifth of the registered shares. Many were outraged by the death of the 167-year-old institution. An opinion poll found that more than three-quarters of Swiss are angry at the level of support for the government and want the deal to be scrapped.discomfort may follow Swiss bank Start the consolidation process, potentially costing thousands of jobs. Legal wrangling was of no avail: On April 2, Swiss federal prosecutors announced an investigation into the activities of deal participants; the next day, lawyers representing Credit Suisse’s additional tier-one bondholders announced a possible lawsuit to recover losses.
the boss is Swiss bank, which was due to hold its own meeting when we publish this article on April 5, will take note of this sentiment. If nothing else, they ponder the deterrent effect of occasionally publicly bashing managers. For Credit Suisse, the first face-to-face meeting in four years came too late. ■
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