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Rodrigo Rato: "I made mistakes. The human being commits them because vanity can do to you."


Highlights: Rodrigo Rato spent 23 months in prison for the use of the black cards of Caja Madrid and Bankia. The former president of Bankia and economic vice president with Aznar says that "now the three big banks dominate the market more" He believes that they made him their scapegoat because, after a major crisis, they needed someone to pay for it in front of the public. He criticizes with extreme harshness the judicial system for its slowness and lack of assumption of responsibility.

The former president of Bankia and economic vice president with Aznar says that "now the three big banks dominate the market more"

He says he has felt anger and anguish in his 23 months in prison for the use of the black cards of Caja Madrid and Bankia. Rodrigo Rato (Madrid, 74 years old) admits mistakes, in addition to the black, for not having left before his position or having listened to some wise advice. In the book he writes with his partner, the journalist of EL PAÍS Alicia González, So far we have arrived, (Peninsula), the politician who was everything, (economic vice president with José María Aznar and managing director of the IMF), points to those he believes responsible for his fall into the mud: former president Mariano Rajoy, and former ministers Luis de Guindos and Cristóbal Montoro. He believes that they made him their scapegoat because, after a major crisis, they needed someone to pay for it in front of the public. He tries to avoid responsibilities to infinity in the bankruptcy of Bankia and points out that, after his fall, the three big banks, Santander, BBVA and CaixaBank, which pushed him to leave, are now more powerful. He does not feel committed to the 22,424 million injected by the State into the bank he presided. He criticizes with extreme harshness the judicial system for its slowness and lack of assumption of responsibility in the errors, despite the fact that it has a pending trial for an alleged illicit enrichment.

Question. What do you think of the current political situation?

Answer. I don't have anything to say anymore. I'm just an ordinary voter.

Q. Will you not return to the PP?

A. I don't think so. Things happen. At 74 years old I am very well as I am. I have been more than 30 years in the PP, it is my party, I am not going to go to another, but I do not know if I already want to be a militant.

Q Why did you decide to write the book?

A. Because this is a well-known story that has had an extraordinary promotion in the media but that I had not explained. And I am the one who knows the truth, because I have lived it. He had not been able to speak publicly about these issues because he was in legal trouble.

Q. Is it a settling of scores against Luis de Guindos, Mariano Rajoy and Cristóbal Montoro?

A. No, I don't make value judgments about anyone. I only criticize me. I say that I was wrong with the cards, with the merger and not listening to some criticisms that were made of me. I tell what everyone did. And if the Minister of Economy [Luis de Guindos] was worried about Bankia and used my competitors instead of using the Bank of Spain [to force his resignation], then I tell you. I try not to rate anyone because I've been rated a lot and it's not good.

Q. There is an expression you use, "scapegoat." Do you think it was?

A. I use it especially in the case of cards (black). Regardless of the botched they were and the mistake it was for each of the 66 defendants, the cards were a kind of explosion of an entire society that was with the feeling that some took it raw and others paid for the broken dishes. In any case, the mitigating circumstance was not applied to me for having returned the money, I am sure it was because the photo that was worth was mine entering prison.

Q. Do you mean that this image was useful to the Government?

A. I don't know if the government.

Q. The policemen you send to your home are from Customs, did the Treasury send them?

A. Yes, but then they do their bit, they put their hand on the never [when he was arrested] if they want, they take more papers than they have to carry. The one who throws you into the pool is whatever, but then in the pool, once you are in the water, the fauna and flora act on their own.

Q. Who throws you into the pool?

A. I am thrown by those who throw me. Customs Surveillance depends on the Ministry of Finance and Sepblac (Service for the Prevention of Money Laundering), the Minister of Economy. One part of this book tries to convey the message that this can happen to anyone and, in fact, it is happening to a lot of people.

Q. The criticism you make of the judicial system is very harsh, to the prosecutors, but also to the investigating judges, to the UCO, the Onif. Is it an attack on the judicial system?

A. They have to have responsibilities. I have paid for my faults. Demanding accountability is important. There have to be positive incentives. Why, if in Spain an instruction lasts beyond eight years, there is no longer a penalty for undue delays? It is high time that a super-powerful public administration was held accountable. Is it normal for the Economic Administrative Court of Madrid to take four or five years to resolve a case?

Q. Don't you think you describe the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office practically as an almost mafia system?

A. I think it's a catastrophe, on the level of Belarus. They do prospective or secret research, not just in my case. When they act, leaks occur and have no consequences because they are not investigated. In my case, documents from my case that were declared secret have been leaked. I denounced it and they replied that it was a crime, but that the culprit was not known.

Q. In the book you admit some errors. What do you blame them on?

A. The human being makes mistakes because vanity can make you, for meeting objectives, for believing that you are going to fix the issues, because you think that something will already straighten out ... True luck is seeing things as they are.

Rodrigo Rato, in a moment of the interview with EL PAÍS. MOEH ATITAR

Q. Do you think you were the right person to preside over Caja Madrid and Bankia in the middle of the financial crisis?

A. That is what the Bank of Spain, the President of the Government, the leader of the opposition, the assembly of Caja Madrid and its board of directors thought.

Q. But did you think about it?

A. I volunteered. He was a gentleman who had a financial background. It is true that he had not held a job in the sector, he had not captured accounts, but he had done things in the financial world and the technical team of Caja Madrid was first class.

Q. But in the book you say that you regret not having changed the management team sooner...

A. But not because they weren't technically good, but because I didn't have my own team. It is very important to have your own teams, even if the previous ones are not bad.

Q. But in the end you ended up negotiating the largest bank merger with another person who was a former president of the Generalitat, also a politician.

A. All appointed with the approval of the Bank of Spain. Does it mean that the suitability given by the Bank of Spain to bankers is not adequate?

Q. But there were no presidents as alien to the financial business, without experience in banking, as you.

R. But what does the political past have to do with it? I have in mind at least two current bank presidents who do not come from the banking business. One thing is the president of the bank, another thing is the CEO. Almost all the savings banks were chaired by people who did not come directly from the banking business. We had technical teams as good as the other banks. We had a very payroll and mortgage-based business that had gone out of fashion and it was about changing it for a more profitable one. And neither I, nor my successor, were able to do that.

Q. Don't you think that changing the business model in the midst of a crisis is very difficult?

A. I know, but in ten years it can be done. It was obvious what business we had to do, Santander or La Caixa, one that was based on financial products. I could be bad at analyzing a balance sheet in detail, but it was clear that the business was more about the alliance with Mapfre than about mortgages. It wasn't quantum physics. I mean, you didn't need to know that much.

Q. You say in the book that there was an important part of the business that were immigrants who had a delinquency of 20%. Not all banks had that.

A. They had been granted to immigrants, but before he arrived. And all that had happened with the CEO, who was backed by the Bank of Spain. Yes, he was wrong. That we had problems, no doubt, that's why we had to accept public money, which was my biggest mistake.

Q. What alternative did you have instead of accepting public money?

A. Reduce balance, have sold or done whatever.

Q. But you would have a capital ratio lower than that required by the Bank of Spain, right?

A. Well, we would have sold assets.

Q. But you said you didn't want to sell assets at knockdown prices...

A. It would have been much less knockdown if I had done it earlier. If in 2010 I came to know that in 2011 they were going to force me to go public, I would have done other things. The thing is, the regulator either didn't know where it was going, or didn't want us to know. But in any case, I find that I spend six months provisioning, 30% more than what the FROB asked me and when I finish, they tell me now we have to strengthen in capital. And if not, they nationalize me. So I do the IPO at a time when nobody wanted to go public. Then the EBA (European Banking Authority) comes and tells me that now we have to provision the Spanish public debt. You don't have to know much, you don't have to have put your teeth in the bank to realize what that meant. And then Rajoy and Guindos arrive and tell us now we are going to supply again.

Q. Don't you think that what underlies there is the problem of an entity that did not generate enough or that had insufficient margin to provision?

A. That's a bit of a gratuitous idea. We provisioned €10.400 billion in 2010. That amount had not been provisioned in Spain by anyone. We complied with the rules just like the other banks and, despite everything, they intervened us. Why? That the boxes had problems, there is no doubt.

Q. But not all were the same...

A. Caja Madrid would have had different problems alone.

Q. And others didn't have those problems and survived, and they also went through those regulatory changes without going bankrupt...

A. We had absorbed six boxes with the understanding that we had time to digest the whole operation.

Q. In the book you say that it was not profitable for Caja Madrid to be loyal to the State.

A. I say that phrase about the possibility of having sold Spanish public in April 2010, as a collaborator proposed to me. Before the crisis it would have been very striking that the third entity in the country got rid of public debt. We would have done much better.

Q. Don't you think that citizens can also think that it was not profitable for them to contribute 22,424 million to Bankia either?

A. Ask the one who decided it. There were 25,000 because there is aid that is provided twice, tax credits. In addition, the intervention would not be so urgent because, according to Goirigolzarri himself in Congress, the money took a year to reach the entity. I do not know if it was profitable, but that was decided by who decided it and asked by who asked for it. I asked for public money once and I have learned my lesson.

Rodrigo Rato, during the interview with EL PAÍS. MOEH ATITAR

Q. The book describes this stage as an obstacle course, a path to the abyss. Did you think about resigning, about resigning when there were so many obstacles?

A. Yes, but what happens is that it was very complicated because I had led, together with José Luis Olivas, a merger in which I had brought a series of presidents of savings banks and had involved regional presidents. I thought that this had to be taken forward, but then the next government came and said that in addition to going public, the sector had to provision 50,000 million because a minister had declared it in the Financial Times.

P. ¿Está de acuerdo en el reparto de culpas por la caída de Bankia?

R. Las culpas no me interesan.

P. Pero usted atribuye a Guindos varios errores, ¿no?

R. Yo sé lo que viví. Cambian las reglas y se deja sin capital a Bancaja y a Caja Ávila, no porque tuviéramos más o menos pérdidas. Pero cuando pasó ese momento, pienso ‘ahora me dejarán vivir un tiempo y podré volver a hablar con La Caixa y poder llegar a un acuerdo’. Pero el Gobierno decide que no quiere que yo siga y me lo pone clarísimo. El ministro y el presidente me dicen que me vaya o ejecutan el dinero del FROB y nacionalizan las cajas. Y además me lo dice en una cena delante de mis tres competidores [Banco Santander, BBVA y CaixaBank]. Ahí dije ‘bueno, se acabó, me voy, ya no aguanto más’. Es impresentable que me hicieran dimitir delante de mis competidores y sin el Banco de España, que había fijado su criterio y tenía su estrategia, por eso se le excluye de esas cenas. Además, se hace dimitir al gobernador del Banco de España [Miguel Ángel Fernández Ordóñez] un mes después, antes de que acabara su mandato. Es alucinante. Era una manera impresentable de llevar la política financiera, que se reflejó en la caída del Banco de Madrid, que ya veremos quien lo paga y, en cierta forma, con el Banco Popular.

P. ¿Esas cenas fueron un golpe a la competencia?

R. El Gobierno es el garante de la competencia y nada respeta menos la competencia que tus competidores opinando sobre tus provisiones. Yo tenía una pistola apuntándome que era el FROB.

P. ¿Cree que los tres grandes bancos dominaban o siguen dominando el sistema?

R Es una palabra fuerte. Pero el banco malo no se hizo [al inicio de la crisis] porque no gustaba al Santander y al BBVA. Fue un gran error de política económica. Y dominan más ahora el sistema de lo que lo dominaban antes. Había 40 cajas y hoy solo hay unas pocas, aunque también es verdad que el mercado evoluciona. En un debate electoral de 2008 Rajoy, que no nunca suele decir nada concreto, lo único que dijo es que no haría un banco malo. Dudo que Rajoy supiera exactamente lo que era un banco malo, pero tenía claro que tenía que decirlo. Y yo pensé ‘hay que ver lo que mandan Emilio Botín y Paco González’. Está dicho en el libro.

P. En el libro dice que se castigó a las cajas por el pecado de financiar pisos. ¿No fue ese el problema, provocar una burbuja concediendo más hipotecas de las que debían?

R. Se nos acusó de provocar la burbuja. Estoy de acuerdo en que los responsables de conceder créditos son los gestores, por eso me echan, aunque yo tenía 15 inspectores del Banco de España en Caja Madrid, había una política que permitía dar créditos a precios muy competitivos a familias con pocos recursos. Ahora tenemos el problema del acceso a la vivienda que no nos lo planteábamos cuando estaban las cajas. Las cajas nos salieron caras, puede ser, pero ahora, ¿cómo vamos a resolver el problema de la vivienda? Mire como lo resuelven empezando por Estados Unidos, siempre con dinero público.

P. ¿No cree que debía haber incluido en su libro alguna referencia a los preferentistas y a los que compraron acciones de Bankia que, en un primer momento, lo perdieron todo?

R. Bueno, yo me encuentro con el problema al llegar a la caja y fuimos relativamente generosos con los preferentistas y les devolvimos casi todo, si estaban dos años de accionistas porque eran los mejores clientes. La rentabilidad de las preferentes era del 7% u 8%. Es duro decirlo y no lo haría siendo ministro ni presidente de Bankia, pero ahora sí: si puedes ganar mucho, también puedes perder mucho, el riesgo tiene un valor.

P. ¿Y los accionistas de Bankia?

A. They are something else: they bought equities on the stock market at a monumental discount and a brochure that does not even include the profit forecast. If the courts say that you have to return the money, then great, but buying on the stock market can not be, unless there are falsified accounts, the responsibility of the State.

Q. In the book you address the use of black cards for which you were sentenced to four and a half years in prison for misappropriation. Didn't it seem strange to you that being personal expenses, they could be paid with a company card?

A. They were not personal expenses. They told me that they were transparent and that they were declared. It was never proven to be disguised remuneration.

Q. But if you went on a trip with the card, wasn't it remuneration in kind?

A. The Tax Agency knew the expenses, it would be very bad, but they are judged. In fact, in 2013, already with Goirigolzarri, Bankia deducted the expenses of these cards in the Corporation Tax corresponding to the previous year. In any case, I did not spend much time on them when I arrived and I should have done it.

Q. But when you arrive at Bankia you recreate the black for you and two executives. Why?

A. Because he owed us some Bankia money from the bonuses for the profits of 2011. And we couldn't think of more foolishness than to make those four cards. And Francisco Verdú, [CEO] quite rightly, told us that I don't want to play this. We made mistakes and we paid.

23 months in prison

Q. Precisely because of the blacks you spent 23 months in the Soto prison of Real de Madrid. What was the hardest?

A. Come in, be there... You get used to everything, but in prison every day it weighs. You end up living and enduring, even enjoying the day there is a football match, although I do not like football, but a revelry is mounted, you even have a good time the day there are lentils, which is the best dish of the week, but you are in jail. But every day it weighs, that's why they are crossed out. It's hard not to be with your family, it's your life that's over.

Q. What did you think about most?

A. When I'm going to leave. I saw that others convicted by the cards were leaving when they served a quarter of their sentence and, according to those calculations, I was due to leave in December 2019, but I stayed until September 2020. That time was very hard, you don't know what to say to yourself or your family. My stay lasted 23 months.

Q. That moment coincided with the incident of the photos of your children, when someone distributes them around the prison and you explode.

A. I lost patience and serenity; I got like a panther and went over the line, although I was quite right. In prison, going over the line is very bad business because the officials do not let you and they do well because they have to run a prison. It was the most difficult time for me and my family.

Q. You agreed with the prisoners of the procés. Did you talk to them and understand their views better?

A. No, in prison they don't talk about that. They were aware that we were not the right audience for the conversation and we were aware that they did not want to talk about it.

Q. But the conditions of all the prisoners improved...

A. That was fantastic. There's nothing like having influences. The cells began to be open all day, which was a plus of comfort. And when we went out to trial, instead of a bologna sandwich from jail, they gave you a menu from a local restaurant. It meant taking tortilla and gazpacho, which we had not tried for months.

Q. Did you ever fear for your safety?

A. Never. I was in module 10, which is called respect, and there was no violence. In others yes, but I didn't see it. On the 10th as soon as you had the slightest conflict, even for a napkin, they sent you to another worse module. I was always alone in a 12-meter cell.

Q. How did you feel during those months? Out of anger, because you thought the system had been unfair to you, out of loneliness, out of shame?

A. Shame, no. You may feel embarrassed when you go out, but not there because everyone is the same. A feeling of pain especially when you return from seeing your family. You feel anger, anguish, responsibility, and sometimes nothing.

Tax amnesty

Q. You say in the book that when you were in the government and you were vice president you did not like amnesties, but you took advantage of one. Isn't it contradictory?

A. No, when I was in government I did politics; When I was a taxpayer, I was a taxpayer. I don't believe in tax amnesties because they are inefficient, legally bad, politically unpresentable and difficult to explain. This amnesty was a botched first, but I took refuge to repatriate some assets that I had inherited from my father, which came to me when I was not a resident.

Q. In the book you suggest that Cristóbal Montoro and Ricardo Martínez Rico also made amnesty because it favored the clients they had from their office before coming to the Government.

A. They had a tax advisory office, one of whose members wants to be finance minister of a government that talks about tax amnesties.

Court case for alleged unjustified increase in assets

Q. You still have an open court case, which has been going on for seven years, for alleged improper charges from two advertising agencies, Zenith and Publicis. The Audiencia de Madrid accuses him, along with 16 other people, of tax crimes, money laundering and corruption. The Prosecutor's Office claims to have identified unjustified increases in assets of 15.6 million and 7.4 million defrauded to the Tax Agency. In the book he quotes the former director of Communication, Pilar Trucios, who accused him of forcing Publics to take the entire advertising contract for his interests. What happened?

A. She had a very bad relationship with a number of people around me, not with me, and she makes those statements, as the Audience says. He says things that I think are going to come out in the trial because I've read it in the defense briefs.

Q. But Trucios is replaced by Teresa Orellana, who was your personal secretary since 1983, who is under investigation, and it is she who signs the contracts. In addition, she is also the administrator of her company Kradonara, involved in the case.

A. Indeed. Those contracts had been won unanimously in a competition, in which Teresa and I did not participate. They were for a year. Teresa signed a contract renewal, with a reduction in remuneration for the agencies, which the technical teams said was good. I did not understand that people who had signed the contracts initially, like Trucios, were not accused and those who signed the renewals were, just because the judge and the anti-corruption prosecutor say so: because they belong to Rato's circle of trust, which seems to be a new criminal concept.

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Source: elparis

All business articles on 2023-06-04

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