Dutch want management of rescued bank held accountable

Sun Feb 3, 2013 2:42pm EST
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By Thomas Escritt

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Dutch finance minister said on Sunday he would look at whether those responsible for the mismanagement of SNS Reaal can be held accountable following last week's 10 billion euro rescue of the country's No. 4 bank.

The troubled banking and insurance group was nationalized on Friday after it failed to meet a January 31 deadline for securing a capital injection to cover heavy losses in its property finance business. The bulk of the costs will be born by taxpayers, although other banks will have to contribute.

Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, speaking on weekly television news program Buitenhof, said the options were limited in terms of holding those responsible accountable for the losses.

But he said that Sjoerd van Keulen - a former chief executive of SNS Reaal and one of several managers facing criticism from investors - should step down from his post as chairman of Holland Financial Centre, an umbrella group for the Dutch financial sector which he has headed since leaving SNS Reaal in 2009. Within hours, Van Keulen had resigned.

Asked what legal steps could be taken against Van Keulen, who was chief executive between 2002 and 2009 and who was in charge when the bank took the fateful decision to acquire a property portfolio in 2006, Dijsselbloem ruled out a criminal prosecution, saying there was no evidence of fraud.

But he said that steps might be taken under civil law against those responsible for SNS Reaal's failure.

"I'm going to have people look into whether there is anything that can be done under civil law, but I think the possibilities are limited," he told Dutch public television.

A finance ministry spokesman later clarified that any such moves could relate to anybody who had sat on the board until the bank's nationalization on Friday.   Continued...