UBS investors demand court action against former execs as AGM votes down discharge

Shareholders at AGM open door to court action against former Swiss bank chiefs.

Investors in UBS have called for the company’s management to take court action against its former executives after shareholders yesterday voted against signing off on responsibility for the Swiss bank’s accounts for 2007, 2008 and 2009. The resolution, which was voted down by 52.75% of shareholders at UBSAGM in Basel on April 14th, would have ‘discharged’ its current directors from any role in the crisis that led to UBS being bailed out by the Swiss state and prevented them taking legal action against former UBS executives. Following the vote, Ethos, the influential Swiss sustainable investment group comprised mostly of Swiss pension funds, demanded that UBS file a civil lawsuit against the former executives. It said the 2007 discharge should lead to legal action against Marcel Ospel, Peter Kurer, Peter Wuffli and Marcel Rohner who led UBS at the time.Ethos alleges that the four former executives were responsible for huge losses at the bank, which it said were due to “speculative operations in the American subprime real estate market, as well as to the non respect of American tax laws.”
Dominique Biedermann, executive director of Ethos, said: “We now ask the board to reconsider their decision and file a civil lawsuit against the former members of the board and executive management, sending a clear signal that the board is distancing itself from the acts of their predecessors. This is a necessary step toward regaining the confidence of UBS clients and shareholders to restore the Bank’s strong financial position.”
Under the Swiss Code of Obligations, shareholders are asked to release board members from liabilities during the years under review. Shareholders that grant the discharge lose their right to file future claims against board members.