Credit Suisse is set for a turbulent annual shareholder meeting Tuesday, after its emergency rescue by UBS two weeks ago left investors nursing heavy losses.
The meeting will be the bank’s first in-person AGM since 2019 and its last as an independent company after 167 years at the heart of Switzerland’s economic development.
(CS) shareholders are expected to vent their anger over the forced takeover of the ailing Swiss lender by its larger rival. Shareholders of both banks were denied a vote on the deal, which the Swiss government forced through in order to prevent Credit Suisse
(CS) from imploding and triggering a wider financial crisis.
The lender’s shareholders were largely wiped out by the rescue, receiving the equivalent of just 0.76 Swiss francs in UBS
(UBS) shares for stock that was worth 1.86 Swiss francs before the deal was announced. Owners of $17 billion worth of “additional tier one” bonds — a riskier class of bank debt — lost everything.
The AGM comes just two days after Switzerland’s Federal Prosecutor said it would investigate whether any of the country’s criminal laws were breached by officials and executives at the two banks during the takeover proceedings.
The deal has left Switzerland’s economy exposed to a single massive lender, with over $200 billion in liquidity and guarantees offered by the government and the Swiss National Bank.
The prosecutor could look into breaches of secrecy provisions by officials or the trading on inside information, Mark Pieth, professor emeritus of the University of Basel, told Reuters.
Shareholders will have an opportunity to question Credit Suisse executives over how the takeover negotiations unfolded and whether information was leaked to the press. Some media outlets reported the news a day before the formal announcement.
The bank’s board will also face scrutiny Tuesday. Norges Bank Investment Management, a top 10 shareholder in Credit Suisse, said it would vote against the re-election of Credit Suisse chairman Axel Lehmann and six other directors.
“Shareholders should have the right to seek changes to the board when it does not act in their best interest,” the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund said in a statement on its website.
Last week Credit Suisse withdrew two proposals up for a shareholder vote from its AGM agenda, saying they were no longer necessary following the planned merger with UBS.
The first pertained to whether the board and executive management should be discharged of their legal responsibility for the bank’s 2022 financial statements. The second related to a one-off bonus that was to be awarded to 500 senior leaders subject to the success of the bank’s turnaround strategy, launched last year.
UBS will hold its annual shareholder meeting on Wednesday. The bank announced last week that former CEO Sergio Ermotti would return to the top job as soon as April 5 in order to manage the Credit Suisse merger, saying it involved significant integration risk.
Ermotti was UBS CEO between 2011 and 2020 and is credited with successfully overhauling the bank following its bailout during the 2008 financial crisis. He is seen as a safe pair of hands capable of integrating Credit Suisse and salvaging core parts of its business.