Careful what you say

January 27, 2009

Bank executives beware. Turn your microphones off during what are likely to be stormy shareholder meetings this year.

Insults are likely to fly at many bank AGMs this year from shareholders angry at their board for losing billions, sending shares crashing, making ill-advised purchases or for their role in the global economic crisis. Bankers are unpopular after more than a year of grim news.

But an unnamed director at Santander lacked humility this week.  After heated questions from the floor about the Spanish bank’s purchase of U.S. lender Sovereign and its exposure to the alleged Bernie Madoff fraud, some shareholders applauded a critical comment.

“Bastards. Listen to them clapping,” the director was heard saying after his mic was left on.

It rekindled memories of Jeffrey Skilling, the disgraced head of Enron who once called a critical analyst an “asshole” in an earnings conference call. But shareholder meetings are often stormy in Spain, and there has been little backlash, whereas in Britain and elsewhere the latest comment could have prompted a bigger furore and a hunt for the culprit.

But it serves as a reminder to executives to put their hard hats on when they meet shareholders this year.


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The problem is that managers and directors think that a company is their own little empire, to be done with as they see fit. Shareholders are not seen as owners, but only as an irritant.

Posted by Jason | Report as abusive

No no, the REAL problem is both companies (also banks) and shareholders:- the aforementioned are far far too greedy and the latter ARE parasites persuading boards to make crazy decisions just so their own gambling aka “investments” make them richer. It seems to hell with providing goods and services which are needed, at a price which can be afforded by most. Just as long as my company grows / my investment grows I couldn’t care less about anyone else, let alone consider social responsibility! Before I have the usual capitalists baying for blood, I do not advocate anything other than sensibly CONTROLLED finances. Let’s hope we all learn lessons from this global recession…..

Posted by Larry | Report as abusive