June 20, 2021

“The contract did not come into effect”


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The only three seats away that have separated Ana Botín, president of Banco Santander, and Andrea Orcel, who should have been its CEO, in the trial for the frustrated signing of this second do not represent at all the cold war and the confrontation Between the parts. Both bankers have seen each other this morning in Plaza Castilla (Madrid), practically without saying a word.

At the beginning of the session, Banco Santander’s lawyer criticized Orcel’s defense for requesting a modification of the claim 36 hours before the trial, while they have accused the banker of having concealed that he has collected 20-30 million from UBS, his previous entity while negotiating with Santander, in these two years he has been unemployed. An amount that is related to the ‘buy out’ that the executive would have to receive, that is, a deferred remuneration bonus that would correspond to him for his time at UBS, which was estimated at around 35 million euros and of which the entity of Cantabrian origin would have been willing to assume about half.

Likewise, Orcel’s defense has confirmed that he renounces one of his claims. In the lawsuit, at the beginning, he claimed compensation of 112 million – which has now been reduced to 76 million after joining as CEO of UniCredit – or his entry into the position of CEO of Santander, based on the letter-offer / contract (here there is the controversy) that was presented to him in the last section of 2018 and from which Santander gave up at the beginning of 2019. Then, the Italian executive has backtracked with the second of his requests and is limited to claiming compensation.

After that, it was the turn of Botín’s testimony as a representative of the bank and marked by the continuous confrontations between the executive and Orcel’s lawyer, who has been warned by the judge for his repeated interruptions and has asked the banker to lengthen what is necessary in each explanation.

“The appointment was not made effective, the contract was not perfected,” Botín has repeated many times in his speech. Such repeated insistence given that Orcel’s lawyer insisted on calling it a contract. Thus, the banker has stressed that what was presented was simply a letter-offer that was accepted although it required negotiations later on. In fact, he has described it as an “appointment subject to conditions”, including Orcel’s departure from UBS, regulatory authorizations …

The main controversy lies in the end of Orcel’s appointment, which occurred in January 2019 after Santander found that they could not cope with the banker’s remuneration, mainly due to the bonus to be paid. In what he had to receive there was a transfer bonus, the salary and the aforementioned deferred bonus that corresponds to him for having worked at UBS.

This bonus has been the subject of controversy, since the Italian’s defense understands that Santander knew that it would have to assume its entirety and not 50% as Botín said they trusted to have to pay and the remaining 50% that UBS would do it. The president of Santander has indicated that this was transmitted to her by the president of the Swiss entity, Axel Weber, from the beginning in informal conversations, but has also clarified that the chief executive of UBS, on the other hand, was receptive to paying the bonus. In short, they were not clear about the position of the Swiss entity, something of which they had proof months later.

With everything, The president of the entity of Cantabrian origin has praised the trajectory of the one who should have become its CEO, while explaining that his bank has worked for years with Orcel to the point that he was its main strategic advisor in large operations, such as the capital increase that Santander had to undertake after staying with Banco Popular.

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