“Put an end to the Americanization of the Swiss economy!”
So screamed a UBS shareholder at a February meeting of the Swiss banking giant’s top executives and shareholders, according to an excellent report in the Sunday New York Times by Nelson D. Schwartz. The report catalogued the far-reaching effects of the American subprime mortgage crisis; one of those effects has been to fuel an anti-American bias in even the more traditionally serene parts of Europe.
Case in point: UBS at one point controlled $80 billion in subprime mortgage-backed securities. It’s been forced to write down about $37 billion because of that gamble. It wasn’t so much the financial loss that angered UBS shareholders (though that surely stung) but that the loss came because of what some Swiss saw as old-fashioned American over-consumption.
Thus the screams of “activist shareholder” Thomas Minder:
“You’re responsible for the biggest loss in the history of the Swiss economy. Put an end to the Americanization of the Swiss economy!”
Mr. Minder rushed the executives on stage at the shareholders’ meeting. Security guards dragged him away.
Said another UBS shareholder: “As a good housewife, I know you shouldn’t put your eggs in one basket. A bank is not a casino.”
As if Old Europe didn’t dislike us enough because of the Iraq War.