Swiss banking giant UBS yesterday started the process of rebuilding its reputation and placating shareholders by announcing major board changes.
UBS, which has written down more than $37bn during the credit crunch, said four of its senior boards members – Stephan Haeringer, Rolf Meyer, Peter Spuhler and Lawrence Weinbach – would step down on 2 October when the bank will hold a special shareholder meeting to replace them.
A new position of senior independent director has been created. Sergio Marchionne, the chief executive of Fiat and UBS’s current non-executive vice-chairman, has been appointed to the job.
The bank, which has been severely criticised by shareholders over its corporate governance, will also immediately implement new governance measures to strengthen the board’s oversight role and separate the responsibilities of directors and executive management.
The dismantling of the chairman’s office has been one of the key demands of Olivant, the UK activist investor group headed by former UBS president Luqman Arnold, which has criticised the dominant role of he bank’s former chairman Marcel Ospel.
Haeringer, one of the directors stepping down, was seen by investors as being a close ally of Ospel’s.
Any progress UBS made in restoring investor confidence yesterday appeared to be countered by fears of fresh write-downs and the possibility of another rights issue, sending shares to 10-year lows.
Analysts have forecast that UBS faces $2.5bn-$7.5bn of additional write-downs for the second quarter.