New chairman Persson pledges to "clean" scandal-hit Swedbank

FILE PHOTO: Swedbank signs on a building in Vilnius
By Johan Ahlander and Esha Vaish

By Johan Ahlander and Esha Vaish

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Swedbank shareholders elected Goran Persson as chairman on Wednesday, with the former Swedish Prime Minister pledging to "clean the house" after a money-laundering scandal.

Sweden's oldest retail bank has lost its chief executive, chairman and a third of its stock market value this year as its Estonian business was embroiled in a money laundering inquiry.

Swedbank, which is under investigation in the United States, the Baltics and Sweden, now faces the potential threat of sanctions and fines as it seeks to regain public confidence.

The most recent allegations against Swedbank, reported by Swedish state TV in March, say it processed gross transactions of up to 20 billion euros a year from high-risk, mostly Russian non-resident clients, through Estonia from 2010 to 2016.

Swedbank suspended its two top Estonian executives on Tuesday as part of an internal inquiry into its compliance with anti-money laundering rules which it launched in April under shareholder pressure for greater transparency.

Swedbank bulked up its board with three appointments at its annual shareholder meeting, including the addition of Persson, as it seeks to regain investor confidence following the scandal, which has also engulfed neighbouring Danske Bank.

The 70-year-old former Swedish politician has emerged as a troubleshooter since playing an instrumental role in reviving Sweden's economy after a financial crisis in the 1990s.

Persson, a Social Democrat who served as prime minister for a decade until 2006 and has since sat on several boards including smaller regional lender Alandsbanken, vowed to restore confidence in Swedbank and work for a better corporate culture.

"We're going to clean our house. That work starts now," Persson said after his election as chairman of Swedbank, whose shares were up 1% to 140.50 Swedish crowns at 1031 GMT.

Shareholders also voted in Bo Magnusson and Josefin Lindstrand as new members of the board, which also faces the task of finding a new chief executive for the bank.

Persson expects a new CEO to be in place by "end of autumn."

(Reporting by Johan Ahlander and Esha Vaish in Stockholm; editing by Johannes Hellstrom and Alexander Smith)