UBS to scrap chairman's bonus, penalise top staff

18th November 2008, Comments 0 comments

Senior executives will be penalised if the bank undertakes risky short-term investments which bring about a loss.

18 November 2008

ZURICH - UBS AG said Monday that starting 2009 it will stop making bonus payments to its chairman and that other top executives will be penalised if the bank performs badly to discourage irresponsible risk-taking.

Switzerland's largest bank has been under pressure to change its compensation model after it was revealed that senior officials were paid bonuses worth millions of francs  annually even though their management drove UBS to seek a USD 60 billion (CHF 71.5 billion) government bailout in October.

The bank said UBS chairman Peter Kurer will receive a fixed salary from 2009.

Kurer, the most powerful figure at UBS, has already said he will forgo any bonus for 2007 and 2008 until the bank has recovered from a disastrous year that saw it lose CHF 45 billion due to bad investments.

The bank will also introduce what it calls a "bonus-malus" system for its other 12 board members that will see their bonus held back for a certain period to discourage risky short-term investments.

UBS said it would apply this system to other senior managers in charge of high-risk parts of its business.

"Should UBS achieve a loss in a subsequent year, no bonus will be awarded, and the cash balance will be reduced by a malus" - effectively the opposite of a bonus - the bank said.

Earlier this month, former CEO Peter Wuffli said he had turned down CHF 12 million due to him since leaving UBS in 2007.

Other former top managers, including former chairman Marcel Ospel, have been urged to give back bonuses and other payments credited to them at a time when the bank was investing heavily in the US subprime mortgage market, which collapsed in July 2007.

"A potential claw-back of paid bonuses for the former members of the Board as well as former top executives is being assessed on legal grounds", UBS added in its statement Monday.

UBS will hold a special meeting on 27 November to inform shareholders about the changes to its compensation system and allow them to vote on measures related to the government bailout, which has allowed the bank to dispose of most of its so-called "toxic assets" and draw a line under a disastrous year for one of Europe's biggest financial institutions.

Shareholder activist group Ethos welcomed the proposed changes, but lamented the absence of an upper limit on the amount of bonuses a manager can earn.

UBS shares reached a historic low of CHF 13.74 on the Zurich exchange Monday, down 5.2 percent from Friday's close.

[AP / Expatica]

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