The big fudge | Economy

The big fudge | Economy


The depth of the internal crisis caused by the denunciation of the secret accounts of Jersey [readthe[leaelChapter 1: Taking the BBVA]in 2002, which led to the expulsion of all the directors of Neguri, founders of the BBV, it was the breeding ground to join forces and prepare the assault on the sole presidency of BBVA, which occupied Francisco González (FG), in 2004. Some executives consulted qualify today as a failed attempt, a rematch against Gonzalez, who they considered usurping the post and without a banker's curriculum, for a misguided strategy and worse execution.

The historical BBV was seen as a bank close to the PNV and affectionate with the Socialists, although Emilio Ybarra, its president, was sympathetic to the PP. When Aznar came to power in 1996, he put Gonzalez in charge of Argentaria. This entity merges with the BBV and FG initiates the Spanishisation of the bank. González believed himself outside the political ups and downs, but in March 2004 the PSOE came to the Government. The apparent calm of FG broke on November 24, 2004. That day, he received a call from Pedro Solbes, vice president and finance minister, who asked him if he knew the interest of Sacyr to enter the bank. "Thank you, vice president, I knew something. They have spoken with my CEO, Goirigolzarri, "he replied. Solbes tells in his memoirs that the conversation was one of trial and half words: "I did not know to what extent Gonzalez was aware and he did not know what my exact position was." But the minister knew then that González would give the battle, and FG that the operation did not count on the support of Solbes.

A day earlier, the minister had received the delegation formed by Luis del Rivero, president of Sacyr, the counselors of the construction company Juan Abelló, Demetrio Carceller and Matías Cortés, and Santiago Ybarra, representative of the Neguri families and Emilio's older brother , among others. Solbes, who saw the meeting as an enclosure, believed that only Del Rivero would come, who had told him that he "had an important issue" to deal with and that from La Moncloa had been referred to him.

José Ignacio Goirigolzarri and Francisco González, at the 2004 shareholders meeting.
José Ignacio Goirigolzarri and Francisco González, at the 2004 shareholders meeting.

Scoring Solbes

The group informed the vice president that it controlled 3.1% of BBVA, with prospects of reaching 9.2% of capital, and that they aspired to form a hard core to control the bank. Solbes says that "the pretensions made little sense" and that he wondered to what extent La Moncloa was at the end of the matter, since Zapatero had not said anything to him. He thought that the government should not interfere and that they should talk to FG and the Bank of Spain (BE), played by its governor, Jaime Caruana.

Since then, the emissaries knew that Solbes would not support them. The frustration would increase after meeting with the BE. After a first appointment with the deputy governor, Gonzalo Gil, and two other subsequent meetings with Jaime Caruana, governor, the official message was that they would not speak because the participation "it was not significant"By not reaching 5%. They understood that they would be banned from entering the council. Neither Caruana nor Solbes were comfortable with the idea of ​​a construction company entering a bank.

Before meeting with Solbes, Del Rivero had met with the CEO, José Ignacio Goirigolzarri, to see if he supported them. There are different versions of this conversation, but sources close to the current president of Bankia point out that he maintained absolute loyalty to BBVA and that he told González, by telephone, what was said, as he was in Venezuela. Others close to Sacyr maintain that they offered him the vice presidency and even the long-term presidency, and that they would continue with their support or without him. Some people point out that the meeting at Goirigolzarri was the beginning of a visceral distrust on the part of FG, until he threw him in 2009.

Plantón from Del Rivero to FG

Del Rivero and FG were on December 2 at ten o'clock in the morning at the banker's office. However, the constructor called minutes before to cancel the meeting, claiming he was waiting for explanations from the BE. The sit-down was a monumental anger of FG, who convened that morning an extraordinary council, which closed ranks with his boss and rejected the entry of Sacyr. FG met twice with Solbes during those days. After the second meeting he returned elated to the bank, according to several witnesses.

After 14 years, the operation has returned to the present when the alleged espionage of the retired curator Villarejo ordered by BBVA to defend itself against the so-called "hostile group" was discovered, in which, in addition to the aforementioned, it included Miguel Sebastián, then director of the Economic Office of the President of the Government and Former Head of BBVA Studies dismissed by FG ​​for being critical of the economic policy of the PP.

The president of Sacyr Vallehermoso, Luis del Rivero, at the shareholders meeting of the construction company in 2005.
The president of Sacyr Vallehermoso, Luis del Rivero, at the shareholders meeting of the construction company in 2005. EFE

Since the defeat has no parents, many involved reject or minimize their participation today. But the perspective of the time allows to analyze with coldness the facts, that constituted a great fudge, in which those who led the operation overvalued their forces and underestimated the great capacity of resistance and the contacts of González. Everything is at the expense of knowing definitively whether FG played or not with an advantage Villarejo's reports and of what the investigations opened by the justice, the regulating organisms and the own bank say. Executives involved claim that they never knew that their phones were flat, although now they have known that they were even listened to four months earlier, as happened with Sebastián.

The supposed role of Villarejo

The certain thing is that the attempt to enter the BBVA agglutinated conflicting interests, perhaps contradictory, which ended up weakening it. On the one hand, there was Del Rivero, former leader of Alianza Popular in Murcia. The businessman maintains that he had told Aznar about the operation at a dinner at Abelló's house on May 24, 2004 and that he took it for granted and did not object. On June 22, Del Rivero went to La Moncloa to ask for the nihil obstat Government and saw Sebastian, who told Zapatero, and he asked him to inform Solbes. The Murcian businessman then presumed that he had the backing of the PRISA Group, editor of EL PAÍS, through Matías Cortés, also an advisor to the publishing group. He even states that he met with Jesús Caínzos, former vice-president of BBVA, and with Gregorio Marañón, ex-counselor, both dismissed by FG ​​in 2004.

The presence of Abelló and Carceller, president of Damm, both partners of Del Rivero in Sacyr, was key to financing part of the purchase of shares, although investments were never made in the course of the operation. In addition, to the being Abelló adviser of the Santander, González saw the ghost of Emilio Botín planning on his head. For this reason, he requested the resignation of Abelló, as a demonstration that his bank was not behind. On December 15, 2004, Abelló left Santander.

The Basque front was led by José Domingo Ampuero, former vice president of BBV and BBVA, and eternal candidate to preside over the bank, which was to unite the Neguri families for the assault against González, along with Santiago Ybarra, president of Vocento. In the end, they did not achieve their goals.

Sebastian's participation

Finally, Sebastian's figure added fuel to the fire. His role would have been to set the mark of "government operation", the most feared by a banker. According to the consulted sources, Sebastián did not manage to convince Solbes, that first he was neutral and then he put up a bit. Sources close to Sebastian, however, they explain another way of seeing things: that FG put him under the spotlight because that way he sold a story of spite and revenge for having fired him. "That is why Sebastián wanted to inhibit and act in the liberal sense of letting do; the interventionism of the Government would have been to oppose the operation ", they comment. Other consulted reiterate that the latest version is the least kind to the real role of Sebastian, who attributed the initial idea of ​​the assault.

It was Sebastian who proposed Goirigolzarri as president, but Del Rivero objected because, in his opinion, he was very young. In the maelstrom of harassment to FG appeared several candidates to replace him. The name was handled by José Pérez, former BBVA and Banco de España general director, theoretically encouraged from La Moncloa, and Jaime Terceiro, former president of Caja Madrid, disbanded by the PP, proposed by former BBV president José Ángel Sánchez Asiaín. Some even spoke of Pedro Luis Uriarte, former vice president of BBVA. With the passage of time, some sources claim that Abelló and Del Rivero himself applied.

Miguel Sebastián, candidate of the PSOE to mayor of Madrid, in 2007, with Pedro Sánchez at his back.
Miguel Sebastián, candidate of the PSOE to mayor of Madrid, in 2007, with Pedro Sánchez at his back.

At the bank, some senior executives from the BBV, although they did not share the ironclad mandate of FG, did not welcome the arrival of Sacyr, whose debt had grown exponentially in the housing bubble. For them, the construction company could put at risk the stability of the bank if it was taken by some shark. It did not make sense that worth 3,000 million on the stock market was made with an entity valued at 42,000 million.

Sources that participated in the operation insist that the initial intention of the construction company was not to take over the presidency, but to invest in the bank to obtain dividends that would allow it to cushion a possible fall in its business.

Extension of mandate

In the end, the operation was plagued with misunderstandings. In any case, the attempt to land at BBVA was intended to prevent the 2005 meeting from approving the first change of bylaws with which González was going to prolong his term five more years, up to 70 years. But they did not avoid it. Later, victorious Chantada's financier would again modify them and delay the retirement age until 75 years.

In addition, they did not have enough money: 9.2% of the capital of BBVA that they said they could raise did not exceed 3.1% and a large part in derivatives. Some potential investors feared that the markets would see the operation badly and backed down. The truth was that among the 16 BBVA directors, including González, only had 1.3% of the bank, and that is why Sacyr claimed several positions on the board with its 3.1%. González, with the support of Caruana, applied the legal norm, and defended that they should have 6.25% to achieve a position, an unattainable percentage.

The position of Caruana, placed by the PP as governor, was final. He had been an ex-partner of FG in the Renta 4 stock exchange and had a close relationship, which was reflected in February 2018 when FG appointed him a BBVA director after having spent eight years with the International Bank of Payments (BIS).

The sale of FG Inversiones to Merrill Lynch

The panorama was clear and the battle was beginning to have a clear winner, FG. Perhaps for this reason, and supposedly with the participation of La Moncloa, the hostile group used more ammunition. He resorted to the alleged scandal of the sale of the company FG Inversiones Bursátiles to Merrill Lynch in February 1996, months before he became president of Argentaria, and he managed a manuscript of Claudio Aguirre, then president of Merrill Lynch, in which he recounted " the accounting devices "used in the operation.

Merrill Lynch It notified the CNMV in July 1996 of an equity mismatch of 800 million pesetas in the FG firm, so it declined to buy the company and only took its assets to avoid future lawsuits. The CNMV did not open an investigation at that time. González defended himself through the law firm Uría y Menéndez, who entrusted the case to his partner Juan Fernández-Armesto, who in October of that year became president of the CNMV.

In January 2005, the SER chain, of the Prisa Group, disseminated information, delivered to the CNMV, about the irregularities of FG Inversiones Bursátiles and a supposed internal paralysis of the CNMV's investigations. Manuel Conthe, president of the supervisor, closed the case on January 22, concluding that, if there had been any irregularity, it was prescribed. He admitted that Aguirre could deliver some document, "but without going through the Entry Registry and could disappear from the CNMV's premises not maliciously, but as a result of an error". In a letter with the Merrill Lynch seal sent to Ramiro Martínez Pardo, head of the Market Subjects Division of the CNMV in 1996, Aguirre reports: "Due to its confidential nature we accompany this letter in a sealed envelope, a written detail of the information that We provided you verbally on July 23, 1996. " The Council of the CNMV, however, never received that information. Conthe would attack the Government. Years later, in the campaign for mayor of Madrid, Sebastián denied the involvement of the Government.

In June 2005, the State Intervention confirmed the accounting hole. All documentation was passed to the Office of the Prosecutor who could not finish the investigation because the Windsor building, where Deloitte kept all the information, it burned on January 12, 2005, one day after the data was claimed. In the end, on February 15, 2005 the "hostile group" threw in the towel. Luis del Rivero said: "At least, we have taken the stone." 148 million euros of capital gains.

Last paradox: it is curious that, on January 12, 2004, when the supposed hearings of Villarejo for BBVA, the bank approved "the most demanding ethical code of the sector", which was based on "strict compliance with the law".

Chronology

  • November 22, 2004. Luis del Rivero meets with José Ignacio Goirigolzarri.
  • November 24. Solbes receives the group of investors headed by Del Rivero, Juan Abelló and Santiago Ybarra to inform him of the interest to enter the BBVA.
  • November 29th. Sacyr informs the Bank of Spain and the CNMV that it will acquire 3.8% of BBVA to have a relevant stake with the support of Juan Abelló, Santander's board member.
  • December 2. Del Rivero gives a sit-in to FG and the BBVA board closes ranks with its president.
  • December 10. The Bank of Spain tells Sacyr that its participation is not significant if it does not exceed 5%.
  • December 15. Abelló resigns as a director of Santander.
  • January 19, 2005. The CNMV claims Merrill Lynch documents on the purchase of FG Valores. Two days later, it analyzes if the investigation on the operation was paralyzed. The next day, shelves the investigation.
  • 26 of January. The PP accuses Zapatero's socialist government of designing the assault on BBVA.
  • February 15. Sacyr finally resigns to enter the BBVA.
  • April 27. Anti-corruption files the complaint about the use of inside information by several Sacyr executives.
  • February 12. Fire of the Windsor tower, headquarters of Deloitte, in which the audits of BBVA are burned. The day before the anti-corruption prosecutor had requested the documents of the auditing firm on the sale of FG.
  • June 21. State Intervention Report confirming that there was an accounting deficit of 5.24 million euros in the balance sheet of FG Inversiones.
  • July 22 of 2006. Anti-corruption archives the FG Valores case.
  • May 7, 2007. Manuel Conthe is relieved at the head of the CNMV and accuses Moncloa of using the CNMV against FG.
  • May 9. Zapatero, Sebastián and Solbes deny that Moncloa prepared the report on FG while the PP denounces Sebastián and Arenillas, former vice president of the CNMV. Who had reports was FG who knew the movements of all his adversaries through illegal eavesdropping of Commissioner Villarejo.
  • December 20th. FG, with 63 years, changes the limit of presidency of the statutes from 65 to 70 years.
  • September 2009. Dismiss Goirigolzarri and place Angel Cano in his place.
  • December 23, 2011. New change of bylaws, passing the age limit to be president of 70 to 75 years.
  • May 4, 2015. He removes Cano and names Carlos Torres.
  • January 31, 2018. FG announces that it will go after the 2019 meeting.
  • May 24. Reports on payments to retired commissioner Villarejo by BBVA are made public, after which the bank opens an internal investigation.
  • September 26. FG says it is moving forward to December 31.

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