UBS tries to restore credibility with boardroom shake-up

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The Independent Online

UBS announced the unexpected resignations of four directors yesterday as it began to overhaul its board in an attempt to restore stability.

The Swiss bank, one of the biggest European casualties of the credit crunch, said the four non-executives – Stephan Haer-inger, Rolf Meyer, Peter Spuhler and Lawrence Weinbach – would leave in three months. It has called an extraordinary general meeting on 2 October to allow shareholders to vote on the proposed replacements.

UBS's board had been aware of the directors' decisions and started searching for new candidates in April. It is drawing up a shortlist of names, which should be announced in August. The bank said it was seeking candidates with banking, finance and risk backgrounds. The departing members variously ran a Swiss chemicals company, a US technology group and a rail company.

The bank said these were "the first measures in its programme to restore UBS to its premier position among global banks".

The move comes two months after its annual meeting, when the bank faced down fractious shareholders, and unveiled its plan to overhaul the group's operations in the wake of massive sub-prime losses. The group was forced to raise a bigger-than-expected Sfr16bn (£7.9bn) through a rights issue in May to shore up its balance sheet.

UBS yesterday also unveiled its new corporate governance guidelines, which had been announced at the annual meeting in Basel. The shake-up, carried out by the bank's governance and nominating committee, included a clear separation of the board of directors and executive management, and strengthening the board's oversight powers.

The group's vice-chairman, Sergio Marchionne, also the head of Fiat in Italy, has become a senior independent director and shareholders' contact to the board.

Peter Kurer, chairman of UBS, said: "Much has been achieved in a very short time and I am pleased with our progress." The move to separate the board and management comes in the wake of criticism from activist shareholders including Olivant, the fund run by Luqman Arnold.

Despite the news of the group's progress on governance issues, and fears of a latest profit warning failing to materialise, shares in the company fell 5.4 per cent to Sfr20.28, a fresh 10-year low.