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Widmer-Schlumpf criticises UBS bonus policy

Acting Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf has criticised Swiss banking giant UBS – which has received a government bailout - over its bonus policy.

She was reacting to comments by UBS board chairman Peter Kurer who said last week that payouts in "double figure millions" could not be ruled out in the future. On Saturday he apologised for the statement.

Widmer-Schlumpf said on the Swiss public television Arena programme on Friday evening that she was "totally appalled" by this view. Such statements should not be made in the current situation, she added.

Under the bailout plan, announced on Thursday, the Swiss National Bank (SNB) will put SFr6 billion ($5.23 billion) into UBS. In return, Switzerland's central bank will take a 9.3 per cent stake in UBS.

Kurer made his comments about bonuses on Thursday. In a radio interview on Saturday he said that there had been a "misunderstanding" and that he personally found high million bonuses "shocking".

Kurer confirmed that UBS was currently in confidential discussions about the paying back of high bonuses made in the past. It was up to those involved to decide, said Kurer.

However, Kurer said to his knowledge that there was no legal basis for requesting bonus repayments.

Voices have been raised about the issue of bonuses in Saturday's media.

Christian Levrat, president of the centre-left Social Democrats, said that he would push for a civil suit against former UBS chairman Marcel Ospel and other former members of the bank's management team at the bank's extraordinary shareholders' meeting next month.

"These people should not just get away with it and continue to play golf," he was quoted as saying in an interview with the Zurich-based Tages-Anzeiger.


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