There were angry scenes at the annual general meeting of Spain’s Bankia.
Investors who hired buses to the meeting in Valencia, eastern Spain, waved placards outside the venue reading “No to financial fraud!” and chanted “Hands up! Bankia is a robbery!”.
Thousands of shareholders booed, jeered and whistled at the bank’s bosses infuriated at the losses they suffered when the lender had to be bailed out barely a year after it was listed on the stock market.
The value of the shares has plummeted and the crowd was not going to be mollified by the chairman’s assurances that the worst was over for the bank.
Jose Ignacio Goirigolzarri told them: “We don’t have the need for more capital. We are going in the right direction, but we are not naive, we know that we have many things to improve and a long way to go.”
Many investors are suspicious of an arbitration process the government set up to help some of them get money back if they can prove the risks of the investment were not properly explained.
“I’m not going to take part in the arbitration process because it’s a fiddle,” said 69-year-old pensioner Francisco Dominguez. He said he lost 38,000 euros in preference shares and would seek justice through the courts.
Another 67-year-old pensioner protesting outside the meeting, Primitivo Arias-Fernandez, said he had lost most of the 24,000 euros he had invested in preference shares.
“Suddenly I’m a forced shareholder because they’ve converted those into ordinary shares,” he complained. His local bank branch had told him these shares were now worth just 400 euros, he said.
Manuel Pardos, the head of ADICAE, a consumer group for bank customers, said the only way the bank will be healthy is if it addresses the problems being suffered by the majority of its shareholders.
Bankia may have sold assets, closed branches and returned to profit in the first quarter, but the shareholders are collateral damage from a financial sector still struggling in a Spanish economy dragged down down by debts from the bursting of the housing bubble and the government austerity needed as part of deals to bail out the banks.
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