Greenpeace activists have gatecrashed Credit Suisse’s shareholder meeting in Zurich to protest against the Swiss bank’s alleged funding of firms involved in the controversial Dakota Access oil pipeline project.
As CEO Tidjane Thiam was giving a speech, two Greenpeace protestors lowered themselves from a catwalk above the stage in Zurich’s Hallenstadium and unfurled a huge banner “Stop Dirty Pipeline Deals” criticising the bank’s support to the crude oil pipeline.
“I am a democrat and a great believer in freedom of expression,” Thiam said. “I will continue my speech. Everyone has a right to express their views.”
The banner was removed around 15 minutes later.
“When I moved here, I was told this is a quiet, mountainous country. This is more excitement than I expected,” Thiam joked as the two were helped off stage.
Campaigners, including Greenpeace, have repeatedly called for investors like Credit Suisse to stop funding firms involved in the 1,885km (1,172 mile) Dakota Access line (DAPL) running from North Dakota to Illinois. They claim the Swiss bank is a prominent bankroller of the pipeline.
However, Credit Suisse said in April it was not involved in project financing for the pipeline.
“Allegations that Credit Suisse is the biggest lender to DAPL are false and are firmly rejected by the bank,” it said. “Credit Suisse has business relationships with companies undertaking the construction and operation of the pipeline.”
US President Donald Trump supports the project, claiming it would provide better connections between Dakota oil producers and refineries on the Gulf coast. However, opponents criticise the fact it is due to run through traditional grounds of Sioux native Americans, with fears it could pollute the water table in the region.
The Greenpeace protest took place on Friday as Credit Suisse holds a stormy shareholder meeting. Switzerland's second biggest bank has faced a revolt from shareholders over compensation and management bonuses for its top managers despite financial losses.
In the afternoon, shareholders narrowly approved the bank's 2016 compensation report in a non-binding vote at the meeting, with 58% accepting the pay policy and 40% opposing. At last year's annual general meeting, 18% of the vote opposed the compensation report.
The Financial Times said this amounted to a 'significant snub' for the leaders of the bank, which is in the midst of a sweeping restructuring programme.
Credit Suisse has run into difficulties after announcing bonuses worth up to CHF78 million ($78.4 million) for executive board members. It also raised its overall bonus pool by 6% to CHF3.09 billion as it battled to stop top bankers defecting to rivals.
Earlier this month senior Credit Suisse managers agreed to take a 40% cut in their bonuses amid unrest over the pay packets following CHF5.6 billion in losses since 2015. The board of directors also offered to freeze their pay.