How much can the Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s problems hurt its share price?

It’s been almost two months since the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX: CBA) chairman Catherine Livingstone announced to the ASX that managing director and CEO, Ian Narev, will retire by the end FY18.

“Succession planning is an ongoing process at all levels of the bank,” Ms Livingstone said.

“In discussions with Ian we have also agreed it is important for the business that we deal with the speculation and questions about his tenure.

“Today’s statement provides that clarity and will ensure he can continue to focus, as CEO, on successfully managing the business.”

But, two months on, it appears little is clear about the state of CBA’s board. And it seems a lot of Mr Narev’s time, and that of the other CBA board members, is being taken up by dealing with the money laundering scandal.

This fact was confirmed by an announcement from Ms Livingston addressed to the ASX a few days before it was announced Mr Narev was being moved aside.

“The board has established a dedicated sub-committee of four directors that will oversee the response to AUSTRAC’s statement of claim and the on-going execution of the program of action.”

Then, in early October, there was more news of another CBA CEO moving on.

Barbara Chapman, the CEO of CBA’s New Zealand business, ABS, is also set to leave the bank next year.

Now, it seems others could soon be on the way out.

Chairman Catherine Livingstone, former chairman David Turner and board members Harrison Young, Andrew Mohl, Brian Long, Launa Inman, Shirish Apte, David Higgins, Wendy Stops and Mary Padbury have all been named on the class action filed by Maurice Blackburn.

And it seems right that the CBA’s major players should be held accountable if they knew about the scandal, or breached their fiduciary obligations in any other way.

But for the future of the CBA and its shareholders it could be better to clear out the board and start again.

The CBA board is tainted. Even if it is determined that some didn’t know what was going on, it will be difficult to for any board to regain shareholder confidence amid an air of incompetence.

Adding to all this, shareholders are left to speculate on the future leadership of the CBA.

Until the CBA cleans up its boardroom mess and appoints a solid leader, it is likely the bank will struggle to get back on track.

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Motley Fool contributor Steve Holland has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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