Fri. Apr 19th, 2019

The most difficult meeting of BBVA arrives: the bank faces all its ghosts | Economy

The most difficult meeting of BBVA arrives: the bank faces all its ghosts | Economy

Carlos Torres, president of BBVA. In video, the keys of the BBVA board. Video: S. ROSATI /A.R. DE LA RÚA

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If someone had designed a more devilish scenario to change a president and name his replacement, he would not have found a better script than what is happening in Banco BBVA. Carlos Torres, who has only been two and a half months at the head of the entity, will face the worst shareholders meeting in 17 years on Friday. On the bank they plan alleged illegal eavesdropping, payments to the most corrupt police, the retired Commissioner Villarejo, the pressure of Audiencia that has opened an investigation, a bad behavior in the stock market, the march of Francisco González (FG) with a pension of 80 million and the push of the ECB to clarify how much before these issues because they damage your reputation.

It would be necessary to go back to the meeting of 2002, when his predecessor, Francisco González (today president of honor of the bank and honorary president of the Foundation), He had just expel the president, Emilio Ybarra, and the councilors from the BBV, to find such a rarefied environment among the bank's shareholders.

According to different information, tomorrow's meeting will revive the memories of the abrupt departure of the BBV directors after discovering that they had accounts in the tax haven of Jersey and the subsequent attempt to to decapitate González on the part of the construction company Sacyr, then presided over by Luis del Rivero. Important interventions derived from illegal wiretapping allegedly contracted by González in the early 2000s are planned. People from the Neguri family environment, as the businessmen who founded the BBV were known, could criticize the bank harshly for not having made any decision since May 2018, when it was learned that the entity made payments to Cenyt, the Villarejo company.

The total amount of these payments to Cenyt, from 2004 to 2017, amounts to 10 million euros, according to sources familiar with these operations, which amount to 100 million BBVA's annual budget for security. According to the bank, in theory most of the payments were for work to look for properties of delinquent clients.

Internal research, still in its initial phase

The bank conducted an internal investigation from June to December 2018, still under the chairmanship of FG, and has started another external one, an analysis forensic, in January, captained by PwC, Uría and Garrigues. So far, the entity says it has not found any document that incriminates González; if it appeared, Torres would ask him to immediately abandon the honorary presidency, sources close to the investigation point out.

Some of the protagonists of those hard confrontations oppose, in private, the harshness with which FG acted against the advisors of the BBV and the Sacyr group and the patience of the current president with his predecessor. These former advisors remember that there is a recording of Julio Corrochano, head of security for BBVA, in which he told Villarejo that his boss wanted specific information supposedly related to the hostile group, in reference to Sacyr. "Only this recording ends with the supposed principle of Gonzalez to put ethics above all," says a former counselor. And criticizes that Torres has declared that he believes that FG is innocent.

This Friday will be the opportunity for many of those who have kept a striking - or scandalous silence, in the opinion of an exejecutivo of the entity - for almost two decades, when the one who sat at the table of the board was Gonzalez, executor of the most controversial decisions.

This Friday Carlos Torres will collect the storms: the incomplete project of digital transformation of the financial business, true guide of FG that denied the future to the traditional bank, in which tens of thousands of millions have been invested without the investors valuing it on the Stock Market (it is quoted in the same price as 2009); a personalist management that has caused a costly (due to the high compensations) leakage of talent, with the march of two complete management teams, which now direct part of the BBVA competitors; his personal bets for China, failed, and for Turkey, questioned by the geopolitical instability and the 80 million pension fund that González received when leaving BBVA after prolonging the retirement age limit twice.

The truth is that many of these decisions are prior to Torres, but he knows that he must assume them for the position. The new president joined the bank in 2008 as head of digital banking, from Endesa and before he was at the consultancy McKinsey. In 2015, he was appointed CEO and Chairman since December 31. Shareholders will have to vote their renewal as a director and their salary.

Votes against

In this regard, Corporance, a member for Spain and Portugal of the Expert Corporate Governance Service (ECGS) advisory alliance, whose opinions reach more than 10% of BBVA's capital, will request a vote against Torres' salary and address, as EL PAÍS advanced on February 21st.

ECGS, called proxy advisors, believes that the remuneration (base salary + bonus + pension) of the president and the CEO is excessive and contrary to good governance practices. They are also against what the independent directors perceive and in particular of the coordinating director, "whose compensation questions their true independence". This firm advises Swiss, German and French investors who, once they have read their opinions, vote according to their criteria.

Apart from monetary and legal issues, in Bilbao there is a deep malaise with González for having removed all the decision centers of the entity from the Basque Country. Contrary to other large companies also founded in Euskadi and which have sought the complicity of the Basque Government, BBVA has ended up selling its emblematic skyscraper in the Plaza Circular and maintaining a rickety presence of the workforce. However, Torres has announced that he will deliver the prestigious Frontiers of Knowledge awards for the first time in Bilbao. Maybe a movement that reflects a change in trend.

In the Roman calendar, the Ides were days of good omens and took place on the 15th of each month. On this occasion, it will be difficult to fulfill these predictions for Torres.


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