Cassola demands BOV changes remote AGM plans to face public on Deiulemar fiasco

Independent candidate and shareholder Arnold Cassola calls on BOV chairman Gordon Cordina to face shareholders after bank is forced into €182 litigation settlement on Deiulemar trust fiasco

Arnold Cassola told BOV chairman Gordon Cordina that the bank should hold a physical AGM this year
Arnold Cassola told BOV chairman Gordon Cordina that the bank should hold a physical AGM this year

Bank of Valletta will not face the public in a physical annual general meeting, to stick to original plans to hold a remote AGM for a third successive year, despite calls for management to clearly explain its role in the Deiulemar litigation.

The matter was brought up by shareholder and independent political candidate Arnold Cassola in an email exchange with BOV chairman Gordon Cordina, who however said preparations for the AGM had been ongoing for months and that the decision was taken prior to the announcement of removal of COVID measures.

Cassola initially asked Cordina to revise the 2 June AGM, to allow shareholders to speak to directors over suspicions of financial mismanagement that culminated with the Deiulemar €182 million settlement, half of the original €363 million claim.

Shareholders will be unable to question directors about the settlement in a remote setting, with questions having to be sent in beforehand, in writing, with no opportunity for follow-up.

Cordina told Cassola the bank would be meeting “media, stockbrokers and shareholders representatives” in the coming days, but also offered to meet with Cassola.

Cassola replied that the bank had duped shareholders, and that it would use the remote AGM to “divide and conquer” shareholders. “The bank cannot get away with answering questions in writing. Present and past chairmen and directors have to be physically present in a public and open meeting,” Cassola said.

BOV shareholders received no dividend between 2018 and January 2022, when management approved an interim dividend of €0.0264 per share. It again advised against a dividend when it reported 2021 results in March.

In his email to Cordina, Cassola said that he and other shareholders wanted answers and explanations on the due diligence proceedings done in relation to the 2009 decision to open the Deiulemar trust; and issuing misleading statements to shareholders, who will foot the €182 million litigation bill, while bank directors from 2009 onwards “did not forfeit one cent of their emoluments”.

According to the bank’s rules, executive directors can have their remuneration reversed for up to seven years from their date of assessment in cases related to a failure of risk management, among other things.