ZURICH (Reuters) - Credit Suisse CSGN.VX has announced a 25 percent boardroom pay cut and reduced bonuses for other top staff while also setting out a range of measures to tackle the surge in the Swiss franc.
The pay cuts are the Zurich-based bank’s response to the more than $2.5 billion (2 billion pounds) in penalties agreed with U.S. authorities last year for its role in helping Americans to evade taxes, it said in fourth-quarter results on Thursday.
As global banks face renewed scrutiny after Britain’s HSBC (HSBA.L) admitted failings by its Swiss private bank that may have allowed customers to dodge taxes, Credit Suisse said its overall 2014 bonus pool would be cut by 9 percent, while directors cut their own pay by a quarter and top management agreed to a 20 percent bonus cut.
Credit Suisse has been a lightning rod for criticism over executive remuneration since its decision to pay Chief Executive Brady Dougan nearly 90 million Swiss francs ($96.7 million) in 2010.
Dougan was at pains to point out on Thursday that though the bank’s staff had worked hard, the hefty U.S. penalties could not be ignored.
“It was a difficult issue to work through,” he said. “The executive board and the board thought that, voluntarily, we should reduce our compensation to reflect the impact of the settlement’s cost on the firm’s financials for 2014.”
The news on pay came alongside separate measures to cope with the surge in the Swiss currency sparked by the central bank’s decision to abandon its cap against the euro on Jan. 15.
The move by the Swiss National Bank (SNB) has caused a headache for financial companies and exporters that earn income outside the country while the bulk of their costs are in francs.
Like rival UBS UBSN.VX, Credit Suisse said it will seek to move more jobs to lower-cost locations to avoid paying staff in Swiss francs as the bank seeks to implement overall cost savings of 200 million francs by the end of 2017.
Dougan said the company would cut jobs, but that no decision had yet been made on numbers or the areas facing job losses.
Shares in Credit Suisse jumped by more than 9 percent to 21.68 francs at 1353 GMT, though they remain well below their level before the SNB announcement. Excluding Greek banks, Credit Suisse is the worst performer so far this year on the European banking index .SX7P.
Other measures announced on Thursday included a plan to reduce the balance sheet -- banker jargon for lending less or making disposals -- by up to 70 billion Swiss francs more than outlined previously to achieve a leverage ratio of about 4.5 percent by the end of the year.
Analysts viewed the bank as being proactive ahead of expected toughening of regulations on bank leverage ratios.
“This is positive, it also shows management trying to get ahead of the debate on their balance sheet,” Morgan Stanley analysts wrote in a note to investors.
Credit Suisse’s forecast-beating net profit of 921 million francs in the fourth quarter benefited from the sale of prime Zurich real estate to Swatch UHR.VX and a 324 million franc accounting gain on the value of its own debt.
The bank left its dividend unchanged from 2013 and offered shareholders the option of receiving a payout in the form of new shares.
Additional reporting by Katharina Bart and Oliver Hirt; Editing by David Holmes and David Goodman