Santander boss quits ahead of possible banking ban

The chief executive of Banco Santander has quit his post shortly before Spain's financial regulator gives its ruling on whether he should be banned from banking altogether.

by Michael Northcott
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013

It’s not often that the CEO of a major company is banned from being in his or her profession again. But 70-year-old Alfredo Sáenz, the current boss of Santander, has agreed to stand down in a ‘voluntary resignation’ and be replaced straightaway by 46-year-old Javier Marin. His decision comes just before the Spanish regulator is due to decide on a protracted legal dispute over whether or not he should remain in his post.

Sáenz is seen by many in the banking community has being responsible for evolving Santander from a parochial regional Spanish bank to a global player, and the bank’s assets are almost four times the size since he took office. But he has been dogged for years by a suspended prison sentence for filing a false complaint against shareholders. Current regulations mean that the country’s central bank must ban bankers from occupying senior positions if they have a criminal conviction. 

Last month, Spain’s Supreme Court overturned a pardon that had been given to Sáenz and now the central bank has opted to launch another set of proceedings against him. New rules recently introduced may save his bacon, but it’s still up to the court to decide whether he should be convicted according to the old rules. 

Santander did not give any reasons for Saenz’s departure, except to say: ‘The board of directors expressed its recognition of and gratitude for Alfredo Sáenz’s extraordinary achievements since joining the Group and, in particular, as chief executive of Banco Santander.’ Sáenz joined what was then Grupo Santander back in 1994, and was executive chairman until 2002, when he was appointed vice chairman and chief executive.

His replacement, Marin, is currently the director of Santander’s private banking and insurance arm. Of course, as you would expect from a banker, the result of Sáenz's resignation is a compensation pot of about €87m. Who ever said ‘we’re all in this together’? 

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