New chairman Persson pledges to ‘clean’ scandal-hit Swedbank

Former Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson (left), the elected new chairman of Swedbank, and acting CEO Anders Karlsson make a statement in Stockholm, Sweden June 19, 2019. — Reuters pic
Former Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson (left), the elected new chairman of Swedbank, and acting CEO Anders Karlsson make a statement in Stockholm, Sweden June 19, 2019. — Reuters pic

STOCKHOLM, June 19 — Swedbank shareholders elected Goran Persson as chairman today, with the former Swedish Prime Minister pledging to “clean the house” after a money-laundering scandal.

Sweden’s oldest retail bank has lost its chief executive, chairman and a third of its stock market value this year as its Estonian business was embroiled in a money laundering inquiry.

Swedbank, which is under investigation in the United States, the Baltics and Sweden, now faces the potential threat of sanctions and fines as it seeks to regain public confidence.

The most recent allegations against Swedbank, reported by Swedish state TV in March, say it processed gross transactions of up to €20 billion (RM93.6 billion) a year from high-risk, mostly Russian non-resident clients, through Estonia from 2010 to 2016.

Swedbank suspended its two top Estonian executives yesterday as part of an internal inquiry into its compliance with anti-money laundering rules which it launched in April under shareholder pressure for greater transparency.

Swedbank bulked up its board with three appointments at its annual shareholder meeting, including the addition of Persson, as it seeks to regain investor confidence following the scandal, which has also engulfed neighbouring Danske Bank.

The 70-year-old former Swedish politician has emerged as a troubleshooter since playing an instrumental role in reviving Sweden’s economy after a financial crisis in the 1990s.

Persson, a Social Democrat who served as prime minister for a decade until 2006 and has since sat on several boards including smaller regional lender Alandsbanken, vowed to restore confidence in Swedbank and work for a better corporate culture.

“We’re going to clean our house. That work starts now,” Persson said after his election as chairman of Swedbank, whose shares were up one per cent to 140.50 Swedish crowns at 1031 GMT.

Shareholders also voted in Bo Magnusson and Josefin Lindstrand as new members of the board, which also faces the task of finding a new chief executive for the bank.

Persson expects a new CEO to be in place by “end of autumn.” — Reuters

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