BANKING SECTOR

Protestors gatecrash Bankia shareholders meeting

Lender’s chairman sounds optimistic note during speech

Ignacio Zafra
Valencia -
A woman shouts at Bankia Chairman José Ignacio Goirigolzarri as he delivers a speech during the annual shareholder meeting.
A woman shouts at Bankia Chairman José Ignacio Goirigolzarri as he delivers a speech during the annual shareholder meeting. HEINO KALIS (REUTERS)

A group of demonstrators staged a noisy protest at the Palacio de Congresos building in Valencia on Tuesday, gatecrashing a shareholders meeting of nationalized lender Bankia. During a speech made by the chairman of the bank, José Ignacio Goirigolzarri, dozens of shareholders left a conference room where they were watching the proceedings on closed-circuit TV screens, and attempted to gain access to the auditorium where the meeting was taking place.

Despite the best efforts of security guards, the protestors managed to spend several minutes in the main auditorium, shouting slogans such as “Thieves!”

The object of the demonstrators’ ire was the so-called preferred share scandal, whereby thousands of the bank’s customers were sold complicated financial products, which in many cases were presented as simple bank deposits. Holders of these instruments have made huge losses on their investments and many have filed lawsuits seeking to recover their money. The government has opened an arbitration process at Bankia to determine if unsophisticated customers were mis-sold the shares.

The protests were also attended by employees of Bankia and members of other collectives such as the Mortgage Victims Platform (PAH), which has been working to assist the thousands of families at risk of eviction from their homes due to falling behind on their mortgage loans.

The anger among the demonstrators at Tuesday’s meeting was in stark contrast to the note of optimism expressed by the Bankia chairman during his interrupted speech. According to Goirigolzarri, the bank is now in much better shape than it was in 2012. The government-appointed chairman said the lender no longer has any further capital needs, and that the bank is now closer to returning to profitability.

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