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Unicaja’s council reaffirms its headquarters in Malaga and scares away political debate

New hot day in the council of Unibox. The decision-making body of the financial entity gathers its members this Friday morning after the different manifestations of the economic vice president Nadia Calvino, who questioned the entity’s governance model a few days ago. It is expected that the council will guarantee an effective and formal response to the requirements of the Ministry of Economy, which has requested the board of trustees of the Unicaja Banking Foundation evaluate the suitability of its president, Braulio Medell.

The former president of the old Malaga savings bank has become the ‘spanking child’ as a consequence of the political debate between the central Executive and the Andalusian Government, which is also taking part in the process. Medel, in his capacity as president of the foundation, is the maximum representative of the first shareholder of Unicaja. Not surprisingly, the aforementioned institution has 30% of the capital of the bank created after the merger with Liberbank.

The appointment of the advisers of Unicaja reaches a week ahead of the next general meeting of shareholders, which will take place on March 31 and in which the ratification of the new directors of the bank is scheduled after the internal pulse that the Asturian and Malaga bloc have carried out for the representation quotas. In the last weeks, there has been a trickle of exits at the top of the company in order to adjust the weight between independents and proprietary to the balance of power that there is now in the combined entity.

Given the noise generated, the Ministry of Economy, through its Protectorate of Banking Foundations, has sent a letter to the Board of Trustees Unibox to assess whether its president, Braulio Medel, meet the sufficient requirements to continue in the position. Faced with such a request, the council this Friday, which had been convened for months on an ordinary basis, plans to address the situation raised in order to reject any political interferenceclarify its position before the public institutions and clear up the interested unknowns that have arisen about the false transfer of the headquarters of Unicaja outside of Malaga.

The minister of the branch, Nadia Calvino, had already spoken in previous weeks, in which he had shown his “concern” about “the governance drift” that, in his opinion, the entity was experiencing. Said fear, Calviño added, extended to bank supervisors, the Bank of Spain and the European Central Bank. The second vice president also took note of some of the resignations of the council, such as that of Manuel Gonzalez Cidwhich alluded to “being dissatisfied with the development of the bank’s governance”.

However, in sources consulted by this newspaper there is the conviction that the resigning director decided to leave the entity to avoid a potential conflict of interest between Unicaja and the real estate services company Beech Royal State. It so happens that González Cid is an external partner of the US fund Cerberus, owner of Haya. This company had a management contract with Liberbank that was canceled due to the integration with Unicaja. It is foreseeable that the servicer will now file a lawsuit against the merged bank, which placed the aforementioned former director of the entity in a delicate professional position.

The intervention of the Junta de Andalucía

In relation to the alleged political interference, it must also be added that Calviño’s words were answered by the Andalusian Governmentthrough its president, Juanma Moreno, who announced not knowing what the minister was “waiting for to make a decision” in this regard. The Autonomous Executive, through the Minister of Public Administration and the Interior, Elijah Bendodohad a pact with the PSOE on track to restructure the Foundation’s board of trustees, but the tensions between the two political forces have prevented, to date, closing an agreement.

The same voices insist that the request of the Protectorate of Banking Foundations to supervise Medel clashes precisely with the spirit of the law that gave birth to banking foundations after the economic crisis of 2008, who advocate depoliticizing these bodies. He also wonders if what Calviño is looking for with this measure is to define the executive requests of the leadership of the new bank, in the image and likeness of other entities such as caixabankwhere the State participates through the Fund for Orderly Bank Restructuring (FROB).

An ERE of 370 million

Another aspect that has also motivated suspicions about Unicaja’s management is that related to the ERE carried out to take advantage of the synergies of the merger. The entity has negotiated an agreement with the unions that is considered “too generous” to the point that some senior managers have decided to take advantage of the occasion to request their early retirement. Not in vain, the investment derived from the restructuring costs amounts to almost 370 million, with an expected payback period of 3.7 years. It should be remembered that the ERE was planned for a labor surplus of 1,513 jobs, but finally the number of applications has risen to 2,085.