Corporate Commercial Bank
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Corporate Commercial Bank AD (Bulgarian: „Корпоративна търговска банка“ АД), commonly called Corpbank, was a Bulgarian bank. Corpbank was a universal bank, serving both as a traditional commercial bank, as well as an investment bank.
According to official data from the Bulgarian National Bank (Bulgaria's central bank) at the end of November 2013, Corpbank was the fourth largest bank in Bulgaria in terms of assets, third in terms of net profit, and first in terms of deposit growth. Following a bank run in June 2014, which many believe was artificially induced, the bank requested special supervision by the Bulgarian National Bank. Its license was subsequently withdrawn in November 2014. Currently, there is pending litigation about the license withdrawal before the European Court of Human Rights and the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes. The chairman of the bank's supervisory board and majority shareholder, Tsvetan Vasilev, fled the country and as of the end of 2014 faces extradition proceedings in Serbia.
- 1 Background
- 2 Corporate management
- 3 History
- 4 Products and services
- 5 Corporate social responsibility
- 6 Awards and recognition
- 7 Attitudes & Altitudes – Quarterly Economic Review
- 8 Cultural heritage
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
Since 2007, Corpbank is a publicly traded company with a two-tier management system. The shares of the bank are traded on the Bulgarian Stock Exchange Bulgarian Stock Exchange (BSE) – Sofia AD. In 2009, 30% of the bank’s capital was acquired by the State General Reserve of the Sultanate of Oman through its subsidiary Bulgarian Acquisition Company II Luxembourg. In 2010, Fata Assicurazioni Danni S.p.A and Fata Vita S.p.A (subsidiaries of the Italian insurance holding Generali Group) acquired a minority stake in Corpbank. In 2013, 9.9% of the bank was acquired by the one of the biggest banks in Russia - VTB Capital.
In the beginning of 2014, Corpbank signed an agreement with Credit Agricole S.A., France, to acquire 100% of the shares of Credit Agricole Bulgaria EAD’s capital. The completion of the acquisition was expected to be done after an approval from the regulatory agencies.
Following a Bank run in the third week of June 2014, the administration of the bank was forced to seek conservatorship from the Bulgarian National Bank. The Bulgarian National Bank allegedly applied dual standards and did not provide liquidity help to Corporate Commercial Bank while it provided a liquidity injection to another bank which also faced a bank run at the same time - First Investment Bank. Contrary to standard practice in the sector, Bulgaria's government rejected a bailout proposal by the bank's shareholders too. Moreover, the Bulgarian National Bank withdrew the bank's license on 6 November 2014 based on a confidential report which it refused to make public. Corporate Commercial Bank's depositors have raised concern that the report allegedly relies on an obscure methodology which has significantly devalued the bank's assets.
Tsvetan Vasilev, the State General Reserve of the Sultanate of Oman, and the depositors of Corporate Commercial Bank appealed the decision before the Supreme Administrative Court of Bulgaria. The appeal was rejected with the argument that none of them had a "legal interest" in appealing the decision. One of the judges dissented based on case law by the European Court of Human Rights against Bulgaria. The State General Reserve of the Sultanate of Oman lodged a claim against Bulgaria for expropriation and violation of investor rights in breach of the Bulgaria-Oman Bilateral Investment Treaty. Vasilev and the depositors of Corporate Commercial Bank have lodged claims before the European Court of Human Rights. The bank's bondholders have also threatened Bulgaria's government with legal action.
- Tsvetan Vasilev – Chairman of the Supervisory Board
- Zlatozar Surlekov – Member of the Supervisory Board
- Abdul Salam Mohamed Abdullah Al Murshidi – Member of the Supervisory Board
- Faisal Amur Mohamed Al Riyami – Member of the Supervisory Board
- Lyubomir Denev – Member of the Supervisory Board 
- Orlin Rusev – Chairman of the Management Board, Executive Director
- Iliyan Zafirov – Member of the Management Board, Executive Director
- Georgi Hristov – Member of the Management Board, Executive Director
- Aleksandar Pantaleev – Member of the Management Board, Executive Director 
Corporate raiding: Corpbank and Vivacom
In 2012, Vassilev bought a stake in Vivacom, which is the brand name of the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company EAD (BTC). Vivacom is the largest telecommunications company in Bulgaria. It is the leading market provider in a variety of telecommunications services, including landline, mobile, Internet, radio, and TV. Around 3,500 work for Vivacom, and it is headquartered in Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia.
Back in 2007, AIG executed a buyout of Vivacom, after which Vivacom went heavily into debt. Vassilev spotted an opportunity and raised the capital to purchase the company. At one point, Forbes magazine ranked Vassilev as the second-most influential man in Bulgaria.
By 2014, Corpbank was Bulgaria’s fourth-largest bank, and it had an extensive portfolio of companies that it owned or partially-owned. Corpbank was the only bank in Bulgaria investing in start-ups and entrepreneurs; as such, its profits and power grew.
DPS request of assets
Because of its growth, wealth, and power, in April 2014 one of the most influential political parties in Bulgaria called DPS visited Vassilev. The request was simple: transfer assets for free to the "mobster circle of DPS." Vassilev refused.
Run on the bank
Suddenly, by June and July 2014, Corpbank customers withdrew large amounts of cash in a panic, known as a "run on a bank." At the time, Bulgaria’s central bank, Bulgarian National Bank, said runs on Corpbank were part of a "deliberate and systematic attempt to destabilise Bulgaria's banking system" by criminals using emails and texts. The messages urged people to withdraw their money from Corpbank and other large banks. It wasn’t until later that the Bulgarian government blamed Vassilev himself for failure of the bank.
Typically, rumors that depositors' money is unsafe is how bank runs start. In the case of Corpbank, several Bulgarian media outlets ran stories accusing Vassilev of trying to organize the murder of Peevski. Prosecutors raided companies affiliated with Corpbank. They confiscated financial documents from those companies. Ultimately, the attempted murder charge was dropped in court. But before that happened, TV stations ran live feeds of the prosecution's raids. Over the course of 4 days, over 20 percent of Corpbank's assets were withdrawn in cash by depositors.
After the bank run, Corpbank was closed for about six months. Corpbank customers were unable to access their money. During this time, Bulgaria didn't have a government (from July to October 2014). The Bulgarian government's currency board denied the Bulgarian National Bank from creating money to pay Corpbank's customers. According to Forbes, "Paying off depositors was therefore impossible. But reopening the bank was not an option either, since that would simply re-start the run. Therefore, the BNB kept the bank "on ice"."
Bank collapse and government takeover
Corpbank was officially shut down and its assets taken over by the Bulgarian National Bank in July 2014. According to media reports at that time, the shutdown was due to a dispute between Vassilev and "Bulgarian media oligarch Delyan Peevski."
Bulgaria violated European Union banking laws, specifically the EU Directive on the Deposit Guarantee Schemes. Bulgaria did not repay eligible deposits within 20 days following the bank's failure, as required by the directive. Bulgaria's Deposit Insurance Fund only had 1 billion euros, which was not enough money to repay the guaranteed deposits for Corpbank.
"Delyan Peevski is simply one of the main tools that the Bulgarian political mafia uses to blackmail Bulgarian business—the visible part of a rather large iceberg of corruption," Vassilev said in a Forbes interview. "The political mafia is persistently trying to downgrade what happened to Corpbank to a personal conflict between Mr. Peevski and me, which is utterly untrue. I had a conflict with the political mafia ruling the country, which has been blackmailing and threatening me for many years."
Charges against Vassilev
In March 2016, the Bulgarian government (through the Commission for Illegal Assets Forfeiture (CIAF)) filed a lawsuit against Vassilev as the main shareholder of Corpbank. The lawsuit accuses Vassilev of using bank money to personally acquire assets and property. The government’s lawsuit seeks 2.2 billion leva, which is equivalent to $1.3 billion US dollars. Vassilev blames the failure of the bank on a plot hatched by his competitors and the government, ultimately to gain control over wealthy assets of Corporate Commercial Bank, such as the telecommunications company Vivacom.
The position of the government and the critics
Menda Stoyanova - a chairman of the Budgetary Committee at the National Assembly said in an interview: "It is clear who bankrupt CCB – Mr. Vassilev and the management of the bank.What we saw from the report of the Parliamentary Committee is that the bank sooner or later would have gone bankrupt. This bank was ruled as a pyramid. Loans are given without being able to be returned - this is the pyramid and sooner or later it would have collapsed. Big part of the money is invested in non-profitable projects and will never be able to be returned"
Desislava Atanasova – a Member of Parliament from the Parliamentary Group of GERB and a chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for Corporate Commercial Bank(CCB): "The main objective of the CCB committee was to highlight the whole process, whether this bank was operating normally or as a pyramid, which is undoubtedly proven." "With the report of the Temporary Parliamentary Committee assigned with investigating what has happened in CCB, several myths have been broken. Among them is that the bank could have been saved last year, as BNB Governor Ivan Iskrov says. "How can one institution be saved that is minus 4 billion levs?"
Ivan Geshev, prosecutor, Administrative head of the Specialized Prosecutor’s Office: "This is the biggest financial fraud in the new Bulgarian history, which should also be compared worldwide. The CCB for the past few years was not a bank, but rather a personal portfolio of the main shareholder.The bank distributed loans to companies that were recently created or could not afford to settle their contributions. For 116 million leva there are no documents as to how credits were granted. Others were given only for a day. Half of the loans were not well secured."
Jordan Tzonev, a Member of Parliament from "Movement for Rights and Freedom /MRF/ and a member of the Parliamentary Committee for CCB: "MRF is motivated to reveal the whole truth about CCB. Peevsky has never been a shareholder in this bank, has never been involved in the bank's management, he and his family have returned all their loans to a penny. He has no preferential deposits and has no relation to this bank. CCB was created, operated and managed by its majority owner Tsvetan Vassilev as a financial pyramid. This is the finding around which almost all members of the CCB Parliamentary Committee have agreed to. This was understood by the society immediately after the bankruptcy. Out of the 5.2 billion loan portfolio, 3.7 billion or 72% were given to companies related to Tsvetan Vassilev. All of them, a total of 117, were shell companies, through which lending went on one to the other, so that Tsvetan Vassilev could buy assets that were not pledged against the credits that the companies borrowed."
Professor Rumen Gechev – economist, a Member of Parliament at Bulgarian Socialist Party and professor at the University for national and world economy:"The central bank is guilty, it is a crash of the banking supervision. The question is whether this failure is due to incompetence or deliberate. There is evil intention in my opinion. Three times, a red signal lamp was supposed to light up that credits were being handed out strangely.""A bank may have a big loss and this is not a cause for bankruptcy, it may have reserves. This is all about it - no matter what the loss was, the important thing is that the credits that are provided have no cover. They are given to one person, he transfers them to the second, to the third ...He recalled a case announced by the Chief Prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov, in which the bank has granted a loan of BGN 50 million to its guard with a salary just over BGN 500. The situation then develops as the familiar scheme of the financial pyramids: "I give you a loan of 50 million, you remain a small part to pay your interest. When the interest is over, you get a new one, you still only pay interest. Formally the credit is serviced, but the business plan is not being executed and it is not known where the money is currently at."
In the summer of 2014, Steve Hanke, an American economist at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, was also critical of the bank's management. As subsequent reports evidencing irregularities in the approach of the government towards Corporate Commercial Bank began to emerge, he has refrained from commenting. In December 2014, he emphasized that if the report based on which Corporate Commercial Bank's license was withdrawn was wrong even "within the range of 5%," then there were many questions "left unanswered."
The position of the depositors
The depositors of Corporate Commercial Bank have been raising their voices against the inadequate policy of the Bulgarian government since June 2014. They founded "We, the Citizens", an NGO which protects their interests through class action and social activism. The NGO's president has referred to the report prepared by the Committee headed by Desislava Atanasova, which allegedly "investigated" the case, as "tendentious and unsubstantiated." Representatives of the NGO have raised concern on multiple occasions that the decision to take Corporate Commercial Bank down was politically motivated and that government institutions, including the Bulgarian National Bank and the Bulgarian prosecution purposefully destroyed the bank through accounting tricks and forged evidence.
The president of the NGO "We, the Citizens" has also drawn attention to the various schemes employed by the government against the interests of the bank's creditors in the insolvency proceedings. In recent public opinion polls, 70% of the respondents said they believed Corporate Commercial Bank was purposefully bankrupted by the government, so that its assets could be plundered.
In November 2017, the NGO sent a letter to the Bulgarian President asking him for support in their fight for justice against "the corrupt executive and judiciary, the prosecution, and dependent media." They also informed him that they have submitted an application under the US Magnitsky Act against corrupt government officials. Previously, the depositors of Corporate Commercial Bank had lodged applications against Bulgaria before the European Court of Human Rights against the alleged illegal withdrawal of the bank's license.
The depositors' fears have been shared by Bulgarian economists, social activists, and government critics. Economist Vladimir Karolev has asserted that the insolvency of Corporate Commercial Bank was artificial and deliberate. Economist Kolyo Paramov has argued that Corporate Commercial Bank is "a victim of a political plot in which Bulgarian institutions participated." Former ambassador and current social activist Ilian Vassilev has stated that Corporate Commercial Bank is "the victim of an attack by Bulgaria's prosecution and Peevski."
Corpbank was a universal bank, serving as both a traditional commercial bank, taking consumer deposits and making loans to businesses throughout Bulgaria, and also as an investment bank, sometimes also taking equity stakes in its clients.
Until its destruction by Bulgarian regulators and the looting of its assets, Corpbank was arguably the most innovative and entrepreneurial bank in the Balkans.
Starting from scratch in 2001, it was a pioneer in export financing to Bulgarian energy producers and ammunition manufacturers previously without banking options. Bulgarian Defence Industry Association President Stefan Vodenicharov, whose members were Corpbank clients, called the government attacks on Corpbank "a crime" and lamented a dearth of banking alternatives for his members.
Unlike its rivals, Corpbank also made direct investments in its clients and emerging enterprises in Bulgaria, most notably the country's leading telecom Vivacom, which it bought from creditors in 2012.
Other investments of Corpbank include:
- Vivacom (renamed to Bulgarian Telecommunications Company) - biggest incumbent telecommunications company in Bulgaria
- National Unit Radio and TV Systems (NURTS) - telecommunications and mobile infrastructure company
- Avionams - helicopter repair company
- Dunarit - ammunition manufacturer
- Petrol AD - gas (petrol) stations
- Victoria Insurance Co. - a joint venture with Generali, an Italian insurer
- Telish & Castra Rubra Wineries - leading wine maker/exporter
- Rubin - glass container manufacturer
- Kostenets Paper Mill - paper mill company
- Rousse Shipyard - shipyard
Products and services
Corpbank has established itself as one of the most dynamically developing banks in Bulgaria. The bank offers a wide range of bank services for both individual and corporate clients. According to its experts, the competitiveness of Corpbank is due to a number of factors among which: understanding of the target markets and focus on export oriented companies. The stable client base is due to the long-term relations with leading companies in the spheres of trade, energy and utility services, construction, etc.
Corpbank conducts its corporate social responsibility by supporting initiatives and projects in the fields of education, healthcare, science, sports, culture, etc. Some of the initiatives include:
- The Big Check initiative which awards every Bulgarian athlete, who has won an Olympic or World Cup title as well as golden medalists from European championships.
- General sponsorship of the Bulgarian Volleyball Federation 
- The Wish Tree initiative, which is aimed at supporting the children from the Dragalevtzi orphanage and the Hristo Raykov orphanage in Gabrovo 
- Support for the Bulgarian Sports Federation For Children Deprived of Parental Care through the financial backing of the Federation’s annual sports schedule (2012, 2013, 2014) as well as through methodological help.
Awards and recognition
Throughout the years, Corpbank has received a number of awards and recognitions. The bank has won the Dynamic Development Award of the Bank of the Year Association five times (2001, 2002, 2010 г, 2011, 2012), Zlatna Martenitsa from the Made in Bulgaria – Small and Medium Business Union in the financial institution with the most favorable credit policy category as well as many other recognitions and awards.
In 2012, the bank improved its ranking the See Top 100 Banks ranking by taking the 24th place among the biggest banks in Southeastern Europe. This is 11 positions higher compared to the 2011 ranking when Corpbank took the 35th position. In the beginning of January 2014, the Bulgarian Stock Exchange – Sofia AD awarded Corpbank with the 2013 Investment intermediary with the highest revenue on the BSE – Sofia award.
Attitudes & Altitudes – Quarterly Economic Review
In the beginning of 2012 Corpbank began publishing Attitudes & Altitudes – Quarterly Economic Review of Corpbank. The publication has a Bulgarian and an English version. The publication is prepared by students from the University of National and World Economy and academicians from the university. The publication conducts an economic review of various sectors of the Bulgarian economy. It also contains interviews with experts and business leaders working in the sector that is covered in the each issue.
Corpbank’s headquarters is located at 10 Graf Ignatiev St. The headquarters of the Bulgarian Commercial Bank, the local bank with the largest capital at the time, was located in the same building from the end of the 19th century until the beginning of the 20th.
The project for the building was made in 1921 by Georgi Fingov, Dimo Nichev, and Nikola Yurukov from the Fingov, Nichev, and Apostolov architectural studio. The building was built in a baroque style which was typical for the beginning of the 20th century. Corpbank has preserved the authentic exterior and interior of the building to a great degree and that is why the building was named as a cultural heritage in 1978. The eminent Bulgarian banker and social figure Atanas Burov was part of the Bulgarian Commercial Bank’s Management. The original bureau of Burov, where he worked while he was at the Bulgarian Commercial Bank, is kept at Corpbank’s building. АД The monument of Burov was officially unveiled at the end of 2011. It is located in front of the Ivan Vazov National Theater and is built with funds provided by the Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Corpbank, Tsvetan Vasilev. The monument was built by the sculptor Professor Emil Popov and Petar Stryaskov, architect. Ilia Georgiev, Chairman of the Deserving Bulgarians Foundation is the initiator of the project .
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