Credit Suisse Chairman Doesn’t Deserve Re-Election, Says Ethos

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(Bloomberg) --

Credit Suisse Group AG Chairman Urs Rohner doesn’t deserve to be re-elected for another year in the role because he failed in his fundamental duty to oversee the bank’s management, a leading Swiss proxy advisory firm told newspaper NZZ am Sonntag.

Rohner, who is set to retire from the bank in 2021, failed in his most important task of supervising the bank’s top management, Ethos Chief Executive Officer Vincent Kaufmann told the newspaper. Ethos will likely vote against his re-election at the annual shareholder meeting, expected to be held in April.

Kaufmann’s comments reflect the tensions surrounding Rohner’s tenure after he won a boardroom battle with Credit Suisse CEO Tidjane Thiam that led to Thiam’s ouster on Friday. Rohner had faced pressure to resign from some of Credit Suisse’s biggest investors who were instead backing Thiam in a dispute over who was to blame for a spying scandal that has overshadowed the bank for months.

“We are convinced that Mr. Rohner does not have the credibility necessary to perform this function,” Kaufmann was quoted as saying. “He couldn’t do” the job, and “so the crisis with Thiam escalated.”

Kaufmann’s remarks matter because Ethos’ members include 223 Swiss pension funds and public utility foundations who it advises on how to vote on executive compensation, board elections and other corporate governance issues.

They come after David Herro, chief investment officer at Harris Associates, on Friday reiterated his call that Rohner should go. In the wake of Thiam’s ouster, Herro said he’s “considering all options” to protect Harris’s investment. Harris is one of Credit Suisse’s biggest investors.

Rohner told a Swiss newspaper on Saturday that he wasn’t afraid of being ousted from his position. Asked if he had the backing of the board at this year’s annual meeting, Rohner said he has no evidence his re-election would be at risk.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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