Sacked director of failed bank CAM seeks 10 million euros in compensation

María Dolores Amorós arrives at her unfair dismissal case to shouts of “thief” and “crook”

Ex-CAM director María Dolores Amorós is hounded by the public on Friday.
Ex-CAM director María Dolores Amorós is hounded by the public on Friday.PEPE OLIVARES (EL PAÍS)

A director of a failed Spanish savings bank, who was sacked for awarding herself a huge pension just before the lender was taken over by the Bank of Spain last year, is claiming at least 10 million euros for unfair dismissal.

María Dolores Amorós, the former general manager of Caja del Mediterráneo, arrived Friday at an Alicante court hearing her case mobbed by journalists and to shouts by members of the public of “thief” and “crook.”

The savings bank, now known as Banco CAM, was taken over by the central bank in July of last year after it floundered under the weight of its heavy exposure to the real estate sector, which has been in a dire slump since the start of 2008.

She was dismissed without compensation shortly afterward when the new administrators of the bank found she had awarded herself an annual pension for life of 369,497 euros behind the back of the top management, and for allegedly cooking the books. Amorós denies the allegations.

On taking over CAM, the central bank was obliged to make an immediate injection of 2.8 billion euros of taxpayers’ money to keep it afloat. CAM booked a loss of 2.713 billion euros last year. It is in the process of being taken over by Banco Sabadell, which was awarded the lender in a public tender for the nominal sum of one euro.

Amorós’ lawyers claim her sacking breached her fundamental rights to personal and professional dignity. She is seeking either to be reinstated or severance pay of 10 million euros for the loss of wages up until her retirement, and a further undeclared sum in compensation for her long career with the bank, including 10 years in management.

The lawyer for Banco CAM rejected all of Amorós’ claims, arguing that her letter of dismissal complied with the labor laws in effect then, and also respected the rights afforded her by the Constitution.

Amorós’ case is far from isolated. There has been a string of other former bankers that looted the coffers of ailing lenders, which subsequently required state intervention. Amorós’ former colleagues at CAM, president Modesto Crespo, and general manager Roberto López Abad, along with four other senior board members, awarded themselves early retirement and golden handshake packages worth a combined 12.8 million euros.

Commenting on the situation at CAM after it was taken over, the governor of the Bank of Spain, Miguel Ángel Fernández Ordóñez, said: “It is easy to understand why people are outraged by what has happened here.”

Struggling Galician savings bank Novacaixagalicia paid out compensation packages worth a combined 23.6 million euros to three directors before the lender needed to be nationalized at the end of last year, with the Orderly Bank Restructuring Fund injecting 2.465 billion euros in exchange for a 93.2-percent stake.

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