Santander CEO Saenz to Appeal Court Ruling on Government Pardon

Banco Santander SA Chief Executive Officer Alfredo Saenz will appeal a Spanish Supreme Court ruling that a government pardon went too far by stating that a criminal record didn’t affect his ability to work in banking.

Saenz will appeal the ruling to the Constitutional Court, said an official at Spain’s biggest bank who is familiar with the thinking of his legal team.

In an appeal ruling handed down on Feb. 12, a panel of judges said that a pardon granted to Saenz in 2011 by the previous government could not offset the consequences of his conviction, including any possible restrictions on him working in the industry. The Supreme Court published a written version of the ruling today.

The legal proceedings involving Saenz have overshadowed the 70-year-old executive since 2009, when he was convicted in a case dating back to 1994. According to Spanish banking regulations, “professional virtue” is a requirement for those working in the banking industry and can be lost by anyone with a criminal record.

The case involving Saenz was related to a lawsuit stemming from his tenure as chairman of Banco Espanol de Credito SA, now a retail banking unit of Santander.

Banesto, as the lender is known, sued a group of businessmen to recover loans in 1994. The defendants filed counter-complaints of false accusation, which a judge decided to investigate, and Saenz was held responsible because he approved the filing of the initial lawsuit.

In March 2011, the Supreme Court upheld the conviction, handing him a three-month jail term and a suspension from banking for the same period. Zapatero issued the partial pardon in November of the same year by commuting the penalties to the maximum fine allowed.

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