Misled shareholders file class action lawsuit against Bankia

A class action lawsuit against Spain's Bankia opened on Thursday with 660 small shareholders who say they were misled during the financial giant's 2011 stock listing asking to be reimbursed €6.3 million ($7 million)

Misled shareholders file class action lawsuit against Bankia
Protestors demonstrate against Bankia. Photo: AFP

Bankia, which was bailed out in 2012, is accused of misrepresenting its accounts ahead of the flotation and hundreds of customers who say they lost their money after converting their savings to shares have brought separate lawsuits against the group.

READ: Ten corruption scandals that will take your breath away

Last month Spain's Supreme Court said “serious inaccuracies” in the information provided by Bankia for the listing led investors into error – opening the way for hundreds of millions of euros in compensation.

The Supreme Court said that small shareholders had no source of financial data on which to base their decision to buy shares except what Bankia told them.

Jose Plaza, the lawyer for the 660 shareholders, asked a Madrid court Thursday that they be reimbursed the 6.3 million euros they invested in Bankia shares, plus interest.

The ruling has been postponed to a later date. Former IMF head Rodrigo Rato, who was chairman of Bankia at the time of the listing, is also being investigated, in separate proceedings, along with other suspects.

Bankia and its parent company BFA said in December they had set aside €1.8 billion in provisions for claims that by the end of 2014 already stacked up to €819 million.

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Ex-IMF chief Rato acquitted over Spain’s Bankia scandal

A Spanish court on Tuesday acquitted former IMF chief Rodrigo Rato and all other defendants of fraud and falsifying the books during the botched 2011 floatation of Spain's Bankia, a symbol of the country's banking crisis.

Ex-IMF chief Rato acquitted over Spain's Bankia scandal
The image of a smiling Rato ringing the bell and sipping champagne on July 20, 2011 to mark the start of Bankia's listing has since become a symbol of the scandal. Archive photo: AFP

The National Court, which handles major criminal cases, said the bank's stock listing had received approvals “from all necessary institutions”.    

The listing was very popular with small investors, who lost their shirts when the state had to nationalise the bank the following year and inject €22 billion ($25.7 billion) to keep it from collapsing at a time when the Spanish economy was mired in crisis.   

That in turn prompted the state to borrow €41 billion from the European Union to keep the rest of Spain's banking sector afloat as investor confidence had been shaken.

Rato, 71, who led the International Monetary Fund from 2004 to 2007, led the merger in 2010 of Caja Madrid, which he headed at the time, and six other struggling regional savings banks into Bankia.

The image of a smiling Rato ringing the bell and sipping champagne on July 20, 2011 to mark the start of Bankia's listing has since become a symbol of the scandal.

More than 300,000 small shareholders bought share packages for a minimum of €1,000, attracted by a major advertising campaign and the profits boasted by the bank.

But in 2012, after a disastrous year that saw its share price collapse, the bank admitted that in the year it listed, it had actually made a loss of close to three billion euros.


Rato, head of the bank at the time, was accused of falsifying the books and fraud to the detriment of investors. He faced a jail sentence of eight and a half years if he had been convicted.

The 31 other people and entities also on trial, among them Bankia, were also cleared.

In its ruling, the court said the prospectus for the listing contained “more than sufficient information for investors… to form a reasoned opinion on the value of the company” and contained a “comprehensive and clear description of the risks”.

It also argued that the procedure which led to Bankia's listing was “intensely and successfully supervised” by the Bank of Spain and financial market authorities which approved it.

During the trial, Rato said Spain's central bank was fully aware of everything that went on at the lender.

“The Bank of Spain would tell us 'do this, do that'. And if at some point we did something they didn't feel was good, it said no,” he told the court.    

A group of activists dubbed “15MpaRato”, which launched one of the first lawsuits that led to the trial, called the ruling “shameful” and said the listing was a “scam”.

Both sides have five days to appeal the ruling.


The state, which still holds just under 62 percent of Bankia, has recognised several times that it will never be able to recover much of the money it disbursed.

The directors of Bankia and its rival Caixabank last month approved a merger to create Spain's biggest domestic bank by assets. The Spanish state will hold a 16.1 percent share in the new group.

Since October 2018, Rato has been serving a four-and-a-half-year sentence for misusing company credit cards for personal expenses while working at Bankia between 2010 to 2012.

Rato was economy minister and deputy prime minister in the conservative government of Jose Maria Aznar from 1996 to 2004, before going on to head the IMF.

READ MORE: Ex-IMF chief Rato 'seeks forgiveness' as he starts jail term in Spain