This looks increasingly weird. If even Putin cannot call off the - TopicsExpress


This looks increasingly weird. If even Putin cannot call off the attack dogs, then we are left to worry about who is actually in control. Certainly, it males no sense to engineer yet another PR disaster...and yet they done done it! Guriev wins Sberbank AGM vote May 31, 2013 3:14pm by beyondbrics By Ben Aris of bne There was high drama at Sberbank‘s AGM on Friday when celebrity economist Sergei Guriev was voted back on the board of the big Russian state-controlled bank despite having fled the country at the weekend in fear of arrest. Guriev said earlier that he had withdrawn his name from the list of candidates, but the head of Sberbank’s legal department told journalists ahead of the vote that it was too late the remove Guriev’s name from the ballot. The result is an embarrassment for the authorities even if Guriev doesn’t return to Russia any time soon. Despite Russia’s reputation for lawlessness, it has stringent corporate action laws that govern shareholders meetings: the agenda, lists of candidates for posts and so on have to be set at least 45 days in advance of a general meeting. No changes are possible after this deadline. Guriev is the dean of the liberal New Economics School that advises prime minister Dmitry Medvedev, amongst other people, and is credited with being an intellectual force behind Russia’s economic reform plans. Shareholders at the state-controlled bank backed Guriev overwhelmingly for a seat on the supervisory board. He got 22.7bn votes, more than anyone else, beating even the bank’s popular chairman German Gref, a former economy minister, who received 20.6bn votes. The result was a shock and have some pundits asking if the vote is a mini-rebellion against the Russian authorities, who have been cracking down on targets ranging from allegedly corrupt officials to opposition politicians and non-government organisations. A key question is who voted for Guriev? Some 44 per cent of the bank’s shares are currently owned by foreign investors according to Anton Karamzin, head of Sberbank’s investor relations, and many of them can be expected to have supported Guriev. However, the remaining 56 per cent of the equity is in Russian hands, with no less than 50 per cent (plus one share) controlled by the central bank. Who voted which way is impossible to work out from the outside. Each of the company’s 21.6bn shares carried 17 votes for the 17 boardroom seats. Shareholders could split their votes as they wished, casting as many as 17 votes for one single candidate. In theory there were 367bn votes altogether. Sberbank was unable to confirm how many shareholders voted or how many votes were actually cast. Some shareholders voted by post, with a deadline of May 28. Some may have voted before Guriev’s flight was publicised and others afterwards. Sberbank confirmed that the central bank voted at Friday’s meeting. Sberbank’s shares are the blue chips of the Russian equity market and pretty much any big institution is invested into Russia – whether Russian and foreign – holds some Sberbank stock. Guriev has until now largely avoided personal attacks. But he has been associated with the opposition blogger Alexei Navalny to whom he offered advice on a reform agenda. His school has also reportedly received financial backing from jailed Yukos founder Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Moreover, Guriev was a member of the Kremlin’s human rights council and took part in an evaluation of the court proceedings against Khodorkovsky, concluding that he was sentenced unjustly in his second controversial trial in in 2011. Russia’s Investigation Committee that is spearheading the anti-corruption campaign called Guriev in for questioning as a witness in the case last month. Given that Khodorkovsky is due to be released next year this activity has prompted speculation that the Kremlin is cooking up yet another case against the troublesome oligarch. Things came to a head at the end of last week when the committee demanded Guriev submit five years’ worth of emails and other documents and his computers. Guriev then approached top government officials for help, according to sources close to Guriev, but was told that these senior figures were powerless to stop the investigation and advised him to leave the country. He is now in Paris where his wife, also an acclaimed economist, teaches at a French university. Guriev told the liberal radio station Echo Moskvy on Friday that he is not coming back: “I prefer to live in a country where I am not threatened,” he said. The whole episode is embarrassing for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has been calling for improvements to Russia’s investment climate. According to Guriev, Putin has reassured him that he will come to no harm, but clearly Guriev was not confident that even Putin could protect him. “I won’t go back even if there is a small chance of losing my freedom,” he said in a written exchange with the New York Times. “I have not done anything wrong and do not want to live in fear.” The reasons for the threats against Guriev remain unclear. He is well-liked and respected by everyone and told bne in an interview earlier this year that he regularly advises not just liberals but also top government officials and oligarchs. Guriev’s friends speculate that he has simply been caught up in a more general purge of politically-significant people which has overlapped with a wide-ranging anti-corruption campaign ramped up in November last year when defence minister Anatoly Serdyukov was sacked and accused of corruption. “It all smacks of a 1930s purge,” says one of Guriev’s close associates, who is in touch with Guriev but didn’t want to be named. “He could well have just been caught up in somebody’s fight or desire to settle scores. That’s the problem with purges: everyone is guilty and merely accusing someone of something is enough to get them out of the way.” While Guriev has been outspoken on economic issues and warned that the current policies will lead to economic stagnation, he is usually a lot more circumspect when it comes to politics. He was again on Friday when asked who was to blame for the attack. “I have no complaints about either Vladimir Putin or Dmitry Medvedev. I heard them say that nothing is threatening me and that they will not interfere in the work of the investigative committee. I respect such an approach and believe that it is wrong to ask the president of the country to interfere on each occasion,” Guriyev told the Ekho Moskvy radio station. Guriev has already taken up a post as the visiting professor in the economics department at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques, in Paris. Related reading Prominent economist flees Russia FT Guriev’s flight Editorial FT Tags: Russia politics, Sberbank, Sergei Guriev Posted
Posted on: Fri, 31 May 2013 20:46:25 +0000

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