By that point, the only choices Credit Suisse’s board faced were the deal or bankruptcy — and the latter, Mr. Lehmann said, “would have led to the worst scenario, namely a total loss for shareholders, unpredictable risks for clients, severe consequences for the economy and the global financial markets.”
But shareholder after shareholder — representatives of investment firms wearing tailored suits as well as individual investors, largely in jeans and casual clothing — who took to the podium to ask questions of Credit Suisse executives expressed shock and outrage about the firm’s fate. Many demanded to know why their holdings were razed by the deal, in which UBS will give one of its shares for every 22.48 Credit Suisse ones. When the deal was announced, that was worth about 76 Swiss cents; a month ago, Credit Suisse’s stock was valued at 2.78 Swiss francs.
But others attacked the culture of the institution — which has led to billions of dollars in fines and losses connected with scandals and missteps — for taking down the firm. (One protester walked the halls in a blazer with “Liquidate Criminal Suisse + Banksters Assets” written with tape on the back.)
“Numerous scandals of Credit Suisse over the past few years have thoroughly ruined the reputation of the institution,” said Vincent Kaufmann, the chief executive of the Ethos Foundation, a major shareholder, garnering applause after his remarks.
Several investors used the spotlight to criticize the government’s role in organizing the transaction, reflecting how unpopular the UBS deal is with the public. A recent poll found that a majority opposed the deal.
In some moments, the gathering took a turn for the surreal.
One shareholder noted to the executives that he had not brought his gun to the meeting. Another asked who was responsible for the online rumor-mongering that had bedeviled Credit Suisse since the fall — Russians, Americans or George Soros?
Another drew laughs when he produced a “gift” for Mr. Lehmann: a sack of walnuts that he had bought, he said, worth the equivalent of a single Credit Suisse share.