THE SPANISH government is under mounting pressure to open an investigation into the collapse of Bankia amid public anger at the salaries of its directors and the losses of savers who bought the rescued bank’s shares.
Luis de Guindos, Spain’s finance minister, described €20 million of severance pay for two directors of the bank as “unacceptable”, calling for an investigation by the Bank of Spain at the same time as the central bank’s outgoing governor hit back at a “smear campaign” against him in the wake of the Bankia rescue.
Speaking in parliament, Miguel Angel Fernández Ordóñez, who on Tuesday announced he would step down from his post a month early following repeated criticism of his supervision of banks, said he wanted to speak about the Bankia crisis but he had agreed not to at the request of the government.
“Nothing would be more gratifying for me than to explain the version of the Bank of Spain, but I think this would not be the moment to do so.”
The ruling Popular party, which had close links with Bankia, has expressed its desire for any inquiry into the bank to be held behind closed doors.
The criticism against Mr Fernández Ordóñez, a former socialist, came as the Association of Bank and Caja Clients, a consumer group, said it was organising protests by small shareholders in Bankia, which it numbers at 500,000, across Spain in the coming weeks.
Bankia, a merger of seven savings banks, saw about 60 per cent of the shares in its stock market listing last summer sold to individual savers, who have since lost 72 per cent of their investment as of yesterday’s close. The listing was endorsed at the time by the then government, the Bank of Spain and the country’s stock market regulator.
Two unions representing Bankia’s employees have filed a request with Spain’s attorney-general to investigate the former management of the lender, and to launch a formal inquiry into the events leading up to its nationalisation.
The board of Bankia received about €22 million in pay for 2011, excluding severance, while the lender and its parent reported a combined loss of €6.3 billion following the rescue, having previously declared a net profit. In the week before Bankia and its parent BFA announced they would need a combined €19 billion rescue, the largest in Spanish history, one union, ACCAM, had called on its members to buy its shares as a show of unity.
Setting up the Facebook page “I buy Bankia, do you?” members of the union wrote messages of support for the bank and called on their colleagues to buy shares to help prop up their value.
The CNMV, Spain’s market regulator, has said it sticks by its decision to have approved the listing, while investment bankers who were involved in the flotation said they believed retail investors were adequately warned of the risks of buying shares. – (Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2012)