Thousands of small investors who lost some or all of their savings when a large bank in Spain failed in 2012 may now get their money back. Bankia, which needed a $19 billion bailout just one year after its initial public offering, announced the surprise move Wednesday.
The plan was announced weeks after Spain's supreme court, ruling on cases filed by two investors, said that because of misrepresentations in its 2011 public stock offer, Bankia should repay people who lost money. Today, the bank said it hopes to resolve claims from any small investor within 15 days after they're filed.
From Madrid, Lauren Frayer reports for NPR's Newscast unit:
"Bankia was Spain's biggest mortgage lender — a conglomerate of regional savings banks that grew too big to fail. But fail it did, at the height of Spain's economic crisis. Thousands of Spaniards lost their life savings, and taxpayers had to bail out the bank. Its ex-chairman is set to go on trial for fraud.
"Bankia's bankruptcy forced Spain to ask Europe for a bailout for its financial system, which has since recovered, for the most part.
"But Bankia still faces lawsuits from Spaniards who lost it all. And now the bank says it'll pay them back. It says it's set aside $2 billion to compensate small investors whom it convinced to convert their savings into bank shares, a year before it collapsed."
Bankia says investors "will quickly and easily recoup 100 percent of their investments plus compensatory interest with minimum fuss and at no cost, guaranteed." The compensatory interest was listed at 1 percent annually.
In its recent financial report for 2015, Bankia posted a net profit of 1.04 billion euros; the bank plans paying a dividend of 302 million euros.
For a reminder of how sharply the bank had fallen, consider how The Economist wrote about the company, back in 2013:
"Many of the 350,000 retail customers who bought Bankia shares in its €3.1 billion flotation in 2011 have already seen their money go up in smoke. Retail investors spent an average of €6,000 each buying stock at a price of €3.75. Within a year Bankia needed a €19 billion bail-out; within 18 months it had a negative value of more than €4 billion. The shares are now trading at around 15 cents, a 96% fall on the issue price."
A look at Bankia's share price today finds it around the 80-cent mark.