* Ermotti's pay up 21 pct to $12.3 million
* Highest earner is investment bank chief Andrea Orcel
* Investigating precious metal business alongside forex
* Rapped by Hong Kong in interest-rate probe
By Katharina Bart
ZURICH, March 14 UBS hiked Chief
Executive Sergio Ermotti's pay by more than a fifth last year,
when the Swiss bank added probes into its precious metals
trading and foreign exchange businesses to a long list of legal
Switzerland's largest bank published details of Ermotti's
10.73 million Swiss franc ($12.30 million) pay package on
Friday, the same day that Hong Kong's regulator rapped the bank
for compliance failures over how it estimated the city's
benchmark lending rate.
UBS is grappling with the fallout from several major
investigations, after paying $1.5 billion to global regulators
in 2012 to settle allegations of interest-rate rigging.
The bank revealed in its annual report on Friday that it has
widened an internal probe of its foreign exchange operations to
include precious metals trading.
UBS is among a handful of large banks that global regulators
are investigating over alleged rigging in the $5 trillion-a-day
foreign currency market.
Ermotti, who on Thursday said European banks are more
concerned about being "too small to survive" than "too big to
fail" due to the challenges they face from holding more capital
and increased competition and costs, is still dealing with UBS's
Knight Vinke, an activist investor which has called for UBS
to hive off its investment bank because it says it threatens the
lucrative private banking business, seized on the latest
"Today's news from Hong Kong underscores once again how the
complexity and size of organisations such as UBS make it all but
impossible to manage risk effectively," Knight Vinke Vice
Chairman David Trenchard wrote in an email to Reuters.
"This is particularly true of investment banking and is a
point which appears to have been implicitly acknowledged by
FINMA (Switzerland's financial regulator) when it required UBS
to increase its capital reserves for risks related to
The regulator last year ordered UBS to hold 22.5 billion
francs of extra reserves against litigation, compliance and
other operational risk
In 2012, UBS responded to rising capital requirements by
saying it would withdraw from large parts of fixed income which
absorb valuable capital, part of a three-year plan to cut 10,000
jobs and rely almost solely on its flagship private bank for
SWISS PAY CURBS
Executive pay, a closely watched topic in Switzerland after
voters last year backed some of the world's strictest controls,
comes under particular scrutiny at UBS because taxpayers funded
a 6 billion franc bailout of the Swiss bank in 2008.
Ermotti's pay rose nearly 21 percent last year, during which
UBS's share price rose 14 percent and the bank increased its
payout to shareholders by two-thirds.
But UBS's highest-paid executive was investment banking
chief Andrea Orcel, who earned 11.43 million francs. Chairman
Axel Weber was paid nearly 6.1 million francs.
Swiss shareholder groups and union representatives, who are
using pay as political leverage ahead of a May 18 vote to
introduce a minimum wage, criticised UBS's awards.
"This is a scandal," said Pepo Hofstetter of Swiss union
Unia. "It shows how important it is to introduce a minimum wage,
so that the lower income bracket can also benefit."
Swiss businesses and the government have both recommended
voters reject the minimum wage of 22 Swiss francs ($25.21) an
hour, saying it would threaten jobs and even the existence of
In a ten-page chapter of the annual report detailing its
legal woes, UBS said it "has taken and will take appropriate
action with respect to certain personnel" as a result of its
review of forex and precious metals trading.
Other problems include rigging of the Libor benchmark
interest rate, claims it misrepresented mortgage-backed bonds
during the U.S. housing bubble and back taxes due to Brazil
dating back to when the Swiss lender owned an investment bank in
The bank said "a number of authorities" were reported to be
investigating suspected manipulation in the precious metals
market, without elaborating.
Regulators including Germany's Bafin are looking more
closely at how banks set benchmarks such as the gold fix after
the Libor rigging scandal exposed widespread interest-rate