Banco Santander SA says Andrea Orcel started illegally recording its executives when the former UBS Group AG investment banker realised the Spanish lender was backing out of his appointment as its chief executive officer.
The allegations were made in Santander’s response to Orcel’s €100mn ($111mn) lawsuit, which says the bank ruined his career and demands it follow through on his appointment. The bank, which changed its mind on hiring him slightly more than 100 days after making an offer, said on Friday that he taped calls when officials told him they were withdrawing the job offer.
The dispute underscores the breakdown in relations with Orcel, who earlier in his career advised Spain’s biggest lender on key acquisitions and had a close relationship with the Botin family that headed it for generations. His hiring was seen as a coup and a blow to UBS but after the Spanish bank’s change of heart, Orcel was left jobless and potentially without back pay from UBS.
When it became clear that he wouldn’t get the job, Orcel started recording phone calls without the consent of the other parties, Santander alleged in an e-mailed statement.
“This is a practice of dubious ethical and moral behaviour for someone who was potentially to become Banco Santander’s CEO, and has ultimately confirmed that the board of directors’ decision not to proceed with his appointment was right,” Santander said, which also accused Orcel of doing too little to get UBS to shoulder some of his back pay, and even asking for more.
Orcel is using the taped conversations as part of his claim, El Confidencial reported.
The news website published more details of the negotiations between Orcel and the bank. Orcel claims that before talks broke down, Ana Botin, Santander’s chairman, considered him to be effective CEO of the bank.
She even included him in a Whatsapp message group for the 20 or so most senior executives of Santander, known as the Promontorio group, El Confidencial said. The Promontorio is the name of the Botin family’s ancestral mansion in the city of Santander.
In his own statement through a spokesman, Orcel said he regrets Santander’s “decision to again bring this matter before public scrutiny, after the very public announcement of his hiring, dismissal and remuneration details, with the material personal and professional damage that follows,” according to his statement.
Orcel accuses the bank of ruining his career and claims the real reason for Santander’s about-face was his request to discuss the limits of his job description, El Confidencial said, citing court documents. In response, Botin set up a face-to-face meeting in Madrid in which she informed him he no longer had the job, according to the newspaper.
Santander is sticking to its version that the job fell apart because it had become too expensive when UBS refused to pay at least some of Orcel’s deferred compensation, which amounted to about €50mn. Orcel, the Spanish bank argues, had told executives he was convinced that UBS would pay half, but failed to show his “best effort” in persuading his former employer.
Orcel pushed up the cost of hiring even more by asking Santander to pay for €3mn in lost dividends and interest from his deferred compensation and by refusing to deduct a €13.7mn non-deferred 2018 bonus he received from UBS, the Spanish bank said.
Known as a hard-charging executive, Orcel must wait for seven years before joining a rival after resigning from UBS if he wants to collect his full deferred pay, people with knowledge of the matter have said. Orcel claims that Santander was fully aware of the cost of hiring him and that UBS had no intention of bearing part of the cost, according to El Confidencial.
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