UBS Names Former Finance Minister Villiger Chairman

Bloomberg – UBS AG, Switzerland’s largest bank, nominated former Finance Minister Kaspar Villiger as chairman of its board of directors, replacing Peter Kurer after one year amid a probe into whether it helped wealthy Americans evade taxes.

Kurer’s departure comes less than a week after UBS called former Credit Suisse Group AG Chief Executive Officer Oswald Gruebel, 65, out of retirement to replace CEO Marcel Rohner. Villiger, 68, will step down from board positions at Swiss Reinsurance Co, Nestle SA and Neue Zuercher Zeitung if elected by shareholders on April 15, the Zurich-based bank said today.

UBS is being sued by the U.S. over the names of as many as 52,000 clients, after agreeing last month to hand out details of a few hundred customers to avoid prosecution on a charge that it helped rich Americans dodge taxes. The bank is cutting 11,000 jobs after more than $50 billion in losses from the credit crisis, and clients withdrew $195 billion of assets last year.

“This is a clean slate,” said Christian Stark, an analyst at Credit Agricole Cheuvreux in Zurich who has an “underperform” rating on the stock. “Villiger hasn’t got the banking experience, but his political background may be useful in dealing with the U.S. and European Union.”

UBS rose 37 centimes, or 3.7 percent, to 10.26 francs by 1:02 p.m. in Swiss trading. The bank has lost 84 percent of its market value in the past two years and posted the biggest ever loss by a Swiss company earlier this year.

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