Swedbank fired its chief executive officer as investigations into money laundering at the bank have expanded.
According to a report in Reuters, citing Swedbank, CEO Birgitte Bonnesen was let go ahead of the company’s annual shareholder meeting on Thursday (March 28). The move comes as investor criticism is increasing about the bank’s role in a series of money-laundering scandals coming from the Estonian branches of some major banks. Bonnesen has said in the past she’s confident the bank has strong anti-money laundering procedures in place and that the bank has reported any suspicious transactions to the proper authorities. Despite those assurances, investors have been growing increasingly critical about her handling of the scandal and were gearing up for a fight at the annual shareholder meeting. Ahead of the meeting, Swedbank’s biggest investors said they won’t give the CEO freedom from liability for the 2018 fiscal year, making it hard for her to keep her job.
“The developments during the past days have created an enormous pressure for the bank. Therefore, the board has decided to dismiss Birgitte Bonnesen from her position,” Swedbank Chairman Lars Idermark said on Thursday (March 28), according to the news report. Swedbank said current Chief Financial Officer Andres Karlsson has been named acting CEO and will hold the role until further notice. The bank said it has begun the process of finding a replacement, the report said.
The departure of Bonnesen comes in the same week Swedbank’s offices were raided and it was revealed that U.S. regulators are looking into the Baltic bank’s actions. The Financial Times reported Wednesday (March 27) that the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) alerted Swedbank in a letter in February that it was looking into seven different cases at the bank. The New York regulator says it has engaged in several inquiries related to Swedbank and its ties to the money laundering scandals that have broken out, including those at Danske Bank, Latvia’s ABLV, Cyprus’ FBME Bank and Lithuania’s Ukio Bank. It is also looking at its ties to Mossack Fonseca, the law firm at the heart of the Panama Papers.