Credit Suisse’s board is considering removing the head of its risk committee ahead of a potentially embarrassing shareholder revolt at the Swiss bank’s annual meeting on Friday, according to people familiar with the situation.
Several of the lender’s biggest investors have said publicly they will vote against the re-election of Andreas Gottschling in protest over the twin crises at Greensill Capital and Archegos Capital. These have resulted in billions of losses for the bank and its clients this year, and Credit Suisse’s shares have plunged more than a quarter since the start of March.
The board, which has a pre-arranged meeting on Thursday afternoon ahead of the AGM, has been alarmed at the level of shareholder dissent over Gottschling’s role, the people said.
Should directors decide to withdraw Gottschling as a candidate, it would make the announcement after markets close this evening. The board has already removed Lara Warner, chief risk and compliance officer, Brian Chin, the head of its investment bank, and several mid-level risk managers and traders responsible for the losses.
Gottschling’s internal supporters believe he is a scapegoat for investor anger over a litany of risk failures that have blighted the lender in recent years.
“There is a strong feeling that while they understand shareholders want to express dissatisfaction, they are going after the wrong person,” said a person briefed on the board’s discussions.
Credit Suisse was forced to raise $1.9bn of capital from shareholders last week to shore up its balance sheet after reporting $5.4bn of trading losses connected with the implosion of Archegos, the family office run by former fund manager Bill Hwang.
Some directors have questioned why Credit Suisse’s US prime brokerage unit extended tens of billions of funding to the family office, whose collapse last month was one of the most dramatic in Wall Street history.
Some people on the board have also lost faith in Eric Varvel, who was stripped of his role managing Credit Suisse’s $500bn asset management business after it was forced to suspend $10bn of supply-chain finance funds linked to controversial finance firm Greensill last month.
However, Varvel has retained his position as chief executive of the bank’s US operations and chair of its investment bank.
Gottschling’s opponents include US investment manager Harris Associates and Norway’s oil fund, both top-10 shareholders. The 53-year-old German has served as chair of the risk committee since 2018, earning a $1m annual fee.
David Herro, vice-chair of Harris, which says it owns 10.25 per cent of the stock, told the Financial Times this week: “It’s the director’s job to represent the shareholders and to watch over management . . . Not only should Mr Gottschling be voted down, but I’m actually surprised in light of current events that he hasn’t already resigned.”
Influential proxy adviser Glass Lewis has recommended shareholders vote against Gottschling, while its rival ISS did not.
ISS was recently acquired by Deutsche Börse, the German stock exchange, where Gottschling is also a board member.
Outgoing Lloyds Banking Group chief executive António Horta-Osório is due to be confirmed as chair at Credit Suisse’s annual meeting on Friday. He is expected to move quickly to overhaul the board as he attempts to limit the damage to its reputation.
Credit Suisse declined to comment.
Additional reporting by Patrick Temple-West in New York
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