The Protectorate of Banking Foundations, a supervisor of these organizations dependent on the Ministry of Economic Affairs, has sent a letter to the Unicaja Foundation in which it expresses its doubts about the actions of its president, Braulio Medel, and asks the board of trustees to analyze whether must stay in position according to ‘El Confidencial’ and has been able to confirm this medium. This notice, never before seen in the sector, comes in the midst of a storm over the governance of the country’s fifth financial institution, which has caused a torrent of issues on the board, before next week’s shareholders’ meeting.
Specifically, this body considers that it has “serious doubts that the Foundation’s president currently concurs with the necessary commercial and professional suitability and honorability for the performance of his duties.” Vice President Nadia Calviño had already exposed in recent weeks her concern about the governance problems that are affecting the Unicaja Foundation and, by extension, the bank of the same name. This month the Prosecutor’s Office has opened an investigation into the historic banker from Malaga for alleged misappropriation and unfair administration at the head of Unicaja.
As revealed by the aforementioned media, the Protectorate acknowledges that it has “serious doubts” as to whether Medel is exercising its functions “for the exclusive benefit of the interests of the banking foundation and is carrying out adequate management of its shareholding in Unicaja Banco”. The Ministry body considers that the analysis of various documents and the information provided by the Foundation’s patrons “reveals a deterioration in the governance of the Banking Foundation, which has undoubted significance for its reputation.”
It does not mean that the Ministry proposes the dismissal of Medel, but rather that it leaves it in the hands of the decision of the Board of Trustees. He asks them for an “independent and first level” investigation to rule on whether he continues to meet the requirements to continue leading the Unicaja Foundation. Give two months to the board to carry out this investigation.
The situation that Unicaja and its main shareholder are experiencing goes back a long way and is complex. In addition to the investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office, as a result of a complaint made by the Salvemos Unicaja platform, there has been a major confrontation over Medel’s decision to take on various actions at the hands of the Foundation without the support of some employers. These decisions basically revolved around the governance model of the old savings bank and the appointment of a director. This situation has caused the bank to resign three of the 15 members of the board of directors, showing their disagreement with these decisions.
This internal earthquake, which has developed since the bank absorbed Liberbank last year, has raised concern in the Ministry, but also between the Bank of Spain and the ECB, according to El Confidencial. Issues that revolve around the governance of financial institutions have become one of the most relevant issues for supervisors in recent years, especially after the problems noted during the last financial crisis.
The Unicaja Foundation is the largest shareholder of Unicaja Banco, the fifth bank in the country. It has just over 30% of the bank’s shares since it absorbed Liberbank through a merger last year. They are followed by the Oceanwood fund, with 7.4%; the Banking Foundation of the Caja de Ahorros de Asturias, with 6.5%; the businessman Tomás Olivo and the family that owns Mayoral, both in the area of 5%.