Monday, April 29, 2013

Alfredo Saenz bites the dust

If you want an example of how justice works for the well-connected, the story of the now the ex-CEO of Santander is about as good as it gets.

The story of what he did in 1994 was quite brazen: as the head of Banesto he developed a strategy where the bank falsely accused owners of bankrupt companies of fraud in order to be able get at their personal assets. Three innocent businessmen were falsely convicted as a result of this and went to jail.

Alfredo Saenz was finally convicted of fraud in 2009 (the wheels of justice turn slowly), and after he lost his last appeal in 2011 he was officially disqualified from being a bank CEO.

Right after losing his reelection in 2011, but before Rajoy officially became president, Zapatero granted a pardon to Saenz so that he could continue to be the CEO of Santander. (Basically trying to waive the requirement that convicted criminals cannot be the head of a bank)

The Supreme Court was not quite done yet, and this February they decided that although Zapatero has the power to pardon Saenz from the criminal sanctions for his crimes, he could not erase the consequences of the conviction, and Saenz was no longer qualified to be CEO of Santander.

Literally days after this decision, Rajoy’s government changed the law to make it possible for Saenz to keep his job (supposedly to align it with European Law).

Two weeks ago, the Bank of Spain (who is now in charge of making the decision) reopened the investigation (after closing the previous one since the law had changed) to decide with Saenz could continue being CEO with the respect to the new law.

Perhaps getting wind of what the decision of the Bank of Spain might be (does the Bank of Spain really want to have to explain why it wants to allow a convicted criminal to run its biggest bank?), Saenz was kicked out today (err I mean retired voluntarily), both as CEO and from the board of directors. He got an 88 million euro retirement package for his trouble.

Of course, that lease the chairman of Santander, Emilio Botin, who is an admitted tax cheat (his family just paid 200 million Euros in back taxes “regularize” their situation). Exactly why this admission of guilt doesn’t disqualify him as well is a bit of a mystery to me.

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