Braulio Medel leaves the presidency of the Unicaja Foundation to avoid the report on his suitability

The turbulence in the Unicaja Foundation, owner of just over 30% of Unicaja Banco, does not stop. To try to calm the waters, Braulio Medel has finally stepped aside at the foundation this Tuesday. He announced it in mid-April, on Holy Thursday, and now his resignation from the presidency becomes effective after the emergency meeting of the board of trustees this Tuesday. He will be replaced by José Manuel Domínguez Martínez, who is facing several open conflicts and pending fringes. On the one hand, there is Baker McKenzie’s report on the governance and integrity of Medel, which the employers have approved its partial revocation (by a majority, but not unanimously, with seven votes in favor and five against). But the Protectorate of Banking Foundations, which depends on the Ministry of Economy, was the one who demanded said analysis and could demand that it continue. On the other hand, Domínguez Martínez is facing the opening of a new gap with the Bank of Spain, which has asked the foundation to resolve the deficiencies detected in its financial plan within two months, although this point was not within the order of the day.

These will be the deepest mines that the new president of the Unicaja Foundation, Domínguez Martínez, will have to deactivate, who will replace the almighty Andalusian financier who has been the head of the bank since 1991. He will have to lower the tension with Economy and weather the warning that the Malaga institution received from the Bank of Spain by letter days ago. The letter, as advanced The confidential, focuses on Medel’s unilateral decision to invest 27 million euros from the foundation in preferred shares of Unicaja Banco at the end of last year, an initiative that it justified before the board of trustees because it was the money that had remained unallocated in 2021 and that it could be carried out by the most urgent route without convening a meeting. The value of these bonds, according to Bloomberghas fallen in these months to 24 million.

In this way, the supervisor annuls the financial plan presented by the foundation, which maintains for its part that this investment represents only a small part of the institution’s assets and that it served to strengthen the bank’s solvency. The Bank of Spain gives him a period of two months to reverse the situation, as confirmed by sources familiar with the request.

With this new touch of attention the tension around Unicaja is increased. After the merger of the bank from Malaga with Liberbank, Medel was in the spotlight for having maneuvered so that Manuel Menéndez, former CEO of the Asturian entity, acquired more power than he was entitled to as CEO of Unicaja Banco to the detriment of the current president , Manuel Azuaga. His figure has been greatly deteriorated in recent months to the point that the Ministry of Economy expressed “serious doubts” about his suitability for the position. Now it remains to be seen what position the new head of the Foundation takes.

Report on governance and good repute

After exploiting this conflict, at the end of March the Protectorate of Banking Foundations commissioned a report from Baker McKenzie on the governance and honorability of Medel. An analysis that Braulio Medel himself tries to neutralize with his resignation, although the opposition from the employers tries to keep the report on course. This analysis was claimed by the Government —Economy signed the letter sent by the protectorate—, which must now decide whether to request that the analysis continue. The first vice president, Nadia Calviño, has repeatedly criticized “the noise” around Unicaja: “I know that the Bank of Spain and the ECB are also very concerned about the drift in the bank’s governance,” she said months ago.

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Criticism of his work at the head of the foundation has not only come from Madrid: Juan Manuel Moreno Bonilla, president of the Board, also expressed his doubts about Medel’s maneuvers. Especially due to the possible movement of offices and the departure of the headquarters of the bank from Andalusia: “Under no circumstances are we going to allow the headquarters to leave Andalusia,” said the PP leader. Sources of the entity assure that the change of the headquarters is not on the table. Meanwhile, the accounts of the fifth largest bank in the country by volume of assets did not reflect any deterioration in the first quarter: it earned 137 million last year and distributed 67 million in dividends.

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