April 30, 2020 / 9:25 AM / in a month

Shareholder support for Credit Suisse chairman drops, successor search 'well under way'

ZURICH (Reuters) - Shareholder support for Credit Suisse (CSGN.S) Chairman Urs Rohner dropped to its lowest level ever on Thursday, as Rohner told the Swiss bank’s annual meeting that its search for his successor was well under way.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Swiss bank Credit Suisse is seen at its headquarters at the Paradeplatz square in Zurich, Switzerland October 1, 2019. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

Shareholders voted to re-elect Rohner for a final term in office with 77.5% support. The 21.6% opposition he faced was the highest in his nearly a decade as chairman.

It follows a spying scandal that cost former CEO Tidjane Thiam his role in February and divided investors over who ultimately should bear responsibility in the bank’s highest ranks.

“Having been a board member for 11 years now, I am standing for re-election as chairman for the last time today,” said Rohner, 60, who is due to step down next year having reached a maximum term on the board.

“The Governance and Nominations Committee is leading the succession process for my function, which is well under way and progressing according to plan,” he told the meeting, which was hosted without shareholders physically present and broadcast online due to restrictions on gatherings amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Proxy adviser Ethos had recommended shareholders vote Rohner out for governance shortcomings, joining adviser Glass Lewis in asking investors to deny approving the leadership’s performance and to reject compensation proposals over reputational and other damages incurred last year.

“We want a new chairman who will enter this from scratch, someone who does not have this entire legacy,” Ethos director Vincent Kaufmann told Reuters ahead of the meeting.

At 79.61%, shareholders voted to approve the 2019 performance of directors and management at just a slightly higher rate than Rohner received.

Shareholders approved all the bank’s proposals, including its revised dividend plan.

Speaking publicly to shareholders for the first time, new Chief Executive Thomas Gottstein noted he would make restoring the bank’s reputation a priority.

“Our reputation suffered during the winter months in particular, and our share price is not satisfactory for any of us,” he said.

“I assure you that my management team and I, together with our employees, will do everything in our power to ensure that you, our valued shareholders, can once again look at our bank with pride and take satisfaction in our financial results.”

Reporting by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi, editing by John Revill

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