Justice confirms 4.5 million in sanctions against Santander for Popular banking infractions

The National Court has confirmed two sanctions totaling 4.5 million euros for the Santander Bank for various serious and very serious offenses committed by the popular Bank in 2014. The judges confirm that the entity chaired by Ana Patricia Botín has to pay the fines for irregularities committed by the bank that bought for one euro and whose accounting irregularities prior to the acquisition are also being investigated in the same judicial body but through criminal channels.

The Bank of Spain announced that it charged these two sanctions to the Santander account in 2019. A first sanction of 1.5 million euros for a serious offense and another of 3 million more for a very serious offense, both committed by the Popular to throughout 2014. The first had to do with the information they provided to the bank's customers about certain products and also with the charging of commissions by the entity for services that they had never provided. The second came from applying interest rate rounding clauses and the existence of compensation and commissions in cases of early repayment of loans, something prohibited by law.

The Undersecretary of State for the Economy rejected Santander's first appeals, which, as the new owner of Popular as of 2018, was forced to take responsibility for these sanctions, and now it has been the contentious-administrative chamber of the National Court that has rejected the appeals of the entity he presides over Ana Patricia Botin. The judges reject all the arguments in a sentence that is still appealable before the Supreme Court: neither did the process expire, nor were the sanctions excessive, nor was there any reason for annulment in the procedure that lasted for several years.

This is a new ruling from the courts confirming that Santander must take over the sanctions inherited from Banco Popular and that, therefore, the invoice for its purchase amounts well above the euro it paid for its acquisition. Already in 2021, the Supreme Court confirmed that Santander had to pay a fine of 5.6 million euros for infractions committed by Popular in terms of money laundering, in a resolution that already established the bank's obligation to take charge of the fines imposed on the entity that Emilio Saracho presided over until its purchase.

That money laundering sanction came from the Council of Ministers, not from the Bank of Spain, and the Supreme Court endorsed that Santander was forced to pay. "The succession between legal persons of the responsibility for infractions committed by one of them", said the third chamber of the Supreme Court, is something that conforms to European regulations. The National Court itself said the same thing last year when it confirmed a sanction of one million euros for Santander for the "misleading data" that Popular had presented in several reports on the remuneration of its board of directors. This resolution, as explained by The Informationis pending final judgment in the Supreme Court.

Santander, says the National Court, "is aware of what has just been exposed" and that is why they bury that allegation. "The examination of the sanctioning file reveals the regularity in the processing of the same, being fully justified that it was continued with Banco Popular and that, at the time of imposing the sanction, the succession of the former by Banco Santander was taken into account", add the judges.

The inheritance of Banco Popular, which Santander bought for one euro, continues to increase the millionaire payroll of fines for various serious infractions while criminal proceedings also advance. For more than five years, Court 4 of the National High Court has been investigating whether there were irregularities in Banco Popular's accounting in 2016 as well as in various leaks that led to the end of the bank.

The case is still in the final stages of the investigation phase and it remains to be seen who will sit on the bench. Last July, the magistrate refused to exclude Banco Santander from the case and leave the door open for it, in a future trial, to respond financially as civil liability in a hypothetical conviction. Sentence of the Court of Justice of the European Union of last year that prevented the shareholders of Popular from suing Santander for misleading information, said the judge, was not applicable in criminal proceedings.

This is a court case with several separate pieces. The last one was opened by Judge José Luis Calama last March to focus on the 2016 capital increase and customer financing. The investigations affect the last two directors of Banco Popular: under the presidency of Ángel Ron and later with Emilio Saracho, who became the first bank intervened by the European authorities with 300,000 minority shareholders affected.

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