The heads of Caixabank and Banc Sabadell, Jordi Gual and Josep Oliu, denied on Tuesday that they had received political pressure to move their headquarters outside of Catalonia in the week of October 1. In their statement as witnesses in the Parliament's committee of investigation on the application of article 155, they assured that the decision, which they described as “technical”, was motivated by the leakage of customer deposits, which between the two entities removed 11,600 millions of euros.
On Tuesday, the committee of inquiry into 155 had three protagonists in the financial field: Josep Oliu, president of Sabadell, Jordi Gual, president of Caixabank, and also Isidre Fainé, president of the Fundación Bancaria La Caixa and Criteria Caixa, shareholder of bank reference. In the appearance of the three directors, the independence parties and the commons – PSC, PP and Ciudadanos do not attend this commission – have tried to elucidate two questions: why these entities moved their headquarters, and whether they received political pressure to do so.
The heads of the entities have stated that the transfer of headquarters was due to the need to stop the bleeding of the deposit leakage: in the days before and after the referendum on October 1, declared illegal by the Constitutional Court, Caixabank it lost 7,000 million in deposits, and the Sabadell 4,600 million. “The outflow of deposits was exponential, it was a lot of money and it had to be cut out of rennet,” said Gual.
Both entities have explained that the vast majority of deposits corresponded to private resources, and denied that there was a significant withdrawal of deposits owned by administrations. In addition, they have ensured that after the transfer of the headquarters, the deposits stabilized again. The two entities have stated that they do not have a return of the headquarters to Catalonia on the table.
The political groups have assured, based on journalistic information and publications such as the memoir of the former Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, or a report by the College of Economists, that the banking entities were pressured to leave Catalonia. Even, the deputy Carles Riera, of the CUP, has accused the entities of being part of “the factual powers that created a climate of legitimation to violate civil, political and social rights” after the application of 155.
The managers — Oliu has appeared in the first place, and later Gual together with Fainé — have rejected any political interference in his decision. “The decision was technical, not political, we acted according to contingency plans,” explained Oliu. Sabadell, as confirmed by the bank's president, began to prepare in 2014, “when we began to become aware that the political situation could be complicated, that there could be uncertainty and political and financial instability.” This entity, in fact, changed its statutes already at that time to be able to move the registered office without having to go through the shareholders' meeting. It was the first bank to leave, on October 5, 2017, and moved the headquarters to Alicante. Caixabank, on the other hand, had to wait for the Rajoy government to approve, on the 6th, an urgent decree in order to be able to move its headquarters to Valencia without going through the meeting despite the fact that its statutes provided for it.
“We did not receive calls or pressures, neither from the Crown nor from the Government, we did so in the face of hypothetical independence, real or perceived. For me it was an extraordinarily difficult and regrettable decision, ”said Oliu. Gual added that the motivation for the relocation of the headquarters was “to protect savings, jobs and investments”, to which Fainé has added that “the savings are sacred”.
The president of Banc de Sabadell explained yesterday that, since 2014 they identified the dangers of process for financial stability, they informed the Govern of these risks. “In 2015 I expressed it to President Mas, and the following year to Puigdemont and Junqueras,” Oliu said. On the day of the transfer, Oliu personally explained it to Puigdemont and Junqueras, and called the President of the Parliament, Carme Forcadell, the Minister of Economy, Luis de Guindos, and Caixabank, so that they would know their intentions.