Swedbank’s ousted CEO gets US$2.7 mil in termination benefits

Bonnesen received roughly twice her salary as a termination benefit. (AFP pic)

STOCKHOLM: Swedbank AB paid its former chief executive officer roughly twice her salary last year after firing her amid a money-laundering scandal.

Birgitte Bonnesen received 26.6 million kronor ($2.7 million) in so-called termination benefits in 2019, bringing her total compensation for the year to 30.7 million kronor, according to Swedbank’s annual report.

Bonnesen’s total compensation in 2018 was 15.1 million kronor.

Swedbank’s board fired Bonnesen in March of last year after a police raid on the Stockholm-based bank’s headquarters and news that US officials were investigating raised concerns that she was misleading the public about the dimensions of the dirty money scandal.

Swedbank faces allegations that it may have been party to laundering as much as US$155 billion.

The bank, Sweden’s largest mortgage lender, has yet to set aside a provision for a potential fine, but said last month that a spike in compliance costs won’t derail its dividend policy or its commitment to keeping expenses in check.

In the annual report, the bank’s auditors, PricewaterhouseCoopers AB, recommended against shareholders discharging Bonnesen from liability for the 2019 financial year, when they meet for the annual general meeting on March 26.

According to the report, a preliminary investigation by Swedish authorities into suspected fraud against investors and disclosure of insider information could lead to “significant sanctions,” and the bank may face claims for damages.

“Actions related to” Bonnesen “could harm Swedbank in the form of fines or sanctions,” the auditors said in the annual report.

“Taking this uncertainty into account, we recommend the general meeting of shareholders not to discharge Birgitte Bonnesen from liability.”

After seeking legal advice and concluding Swedbank’s board had taken “reasonable measures,” the auditors recommended that its members be discharged from liability.