UBS chief executive Sergio Ermotti has vowed to protect its dividends after being hit by a €4.5bn fine in a French tax fraud trial.
Speaking to investors earlier today, Ermotti said the Swiss banking giant would prioritise protecting shareholder dividends if it fails to get out of the huge fine imposed by a French court on Wednesday.
“Of course, as we always say we need to consider our business outlook including the impact of any idiosyncratic events like this one,” Ermotti said.
In this respect, in the event of a very adverse scenario, our priority would always be to protect the previous year’s dividend,” he said.
A Paris court found that UBS illegally helped wealthy clients hide assets from tax authorities through Swiss accounts.
It issued a fine of €3.7bn and an additional €800m worth of damages to be paid to the French state.
French prosecutors estimated that French tax authorities were denied up to €10.6bn through the bank’s activities.
UBS has denied any wrongdoing and the bank said it would launch an appeal, slamming the verdict in a strongly worded statement.
It said: “The conviction is not supported by any concrete evidence, but instead is based on the unfounded allegations of former employees who were not even heard at the trial.
“No evidence was provided that any French client was solicited on French soil by a UBS AG client advisor to open an account in Switzerland.”