* Actares backs calls from investor firm Deminor
* Canvassing for support at very early stage
* Action would need backing of institutional investors
ZURICH, June 30 (Reuters) - Swiss shareholder group Actares has thrown its support behind calls for UBS (UBS.N)UBSN.VX to take legal action against ex-managers after investors refused to absolve them for making investments that nearly brought down the bank.
In April, shareholders of Switzerland’s UBS, the world’s second largest wealth manger, took the unprecedented step of refusing to exonerate former top executives for the risky investment bets that brought the bank to the verge of collapse during the credit crisis, opening the door to potential damages claims. [ID:nLDE63D0E6]
Now shareholders should support calls from Belgium’s Deminor, an activist corporate governance organisation, for UBS to take action against these managers, said Actares, a Swiss pressure group representing shareholders who support sustainable development in business.
No legal action has been launched by any party so far.
Deminor is currently canvassing support to pressure current UBS management to act against the former executives. It said if that fails, it will consider making claims itself.
“If the (UBS) supervisory board continues to take no action... various claims will be initiated, depending on the number of participating shareholders and the share capital represented,” Actares said.
Deminor has said it will try until Aug. 15 to gather support and will need the backing of a large and representative group of investors to be successful.
“In order to achieve a critical mass, it is necessary for institutional investors to join the initiative,” Actares said.
UBS has said it would not seek compensation from former executives, but 53 percent of investors voted against discharging former Chairman Marcel Ospel, now a hate-figure in the eyes of the Swiss public, ex-CEO Peter Wuffli and all those who were board members in 2007, from responsibility for their actions.
That was the year that led to more than $50 billion in writedowns and resulted in record annual losses in 2008. (Reporting by Jason Rhodes; editing by Karen Foster)