Switzerland’s financial regulator has escalated its investigation into a corporate espionage scandal at Credit Suisse that has sent shockwaves through the country’s secretive banking industry.
The watchdog, Finma, announced on Wednesday that it had opened enforcement proceedings against the lender, signalling that an initial investigation by auditors launched in December had found grounds for a more formal inquiry into the incidents.
The investigation came after Credit Suisse admitted to hiring private detectives to track two of its executives last year. It blamed its former chief operating officer Pierre-Olivier Bouée for both incidents.
The regulator said: “Finma has opened enforcement proceedings against the bank, in which it will pursue indications of violations of supervisory law in the context of the bank’s observation and security activities and in particular the question of how these activities were documented and controlled”.
It said it would not comment further until it concluded its investigation, which could take several months.
Iqbal Khan, the former head of the bank’s wealth management division, was trailed by private investigators for several days in September 2019, shortly after he left the bank for a rival position at UBS. It culminated in a car chase through Zurich, where Khan eventually tried to confront the private detectives.
Bouée was sacked weeks later and was the only executive blamed for the scandal. A private security consultant who had helped Bouée organise the spying reportedly killed himself after the incident.
While Credit Suisse originally claimed it was a one-off case, a second spying incident emerged in December when the bank admitted that the former head of human resources Peter Goerke was followed for several days in February 2019 by private detectives who were hired on behalf of the bank.
Credit Suisse has tried to reassure investors that despite the damage to its reputation, its business has not been affected by the scandal.
However, it cut the pay package of its former chief executive Tidjane Thiam by almost £2m after ousting him over the espionage row.
Credit Suisse said that while its investigation found Thiam was not involved, he was still accountable for the scandal, and he had accepted the pay reduction.
Commenting on the launch of enforcement proceedings, Credit Suisse said it would continue to fully cooperate with Finma and “is determined to support the effort to ensure a complete and expeditious conclusion of the review of this episode and incorporate lessons learned”.
It said: “The board of directors and the executive board of Credit Suisse agree and unequivocally affirm that the observation of employees is not part of the culture of Credit Suisse. No further comments can be made at this stage until findings are presented by Finma.”
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