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Switzerland Starts Enforcement Proceedings Against Credit Suisse Over Spying

Tom Burroughes, Group Editor , London, 2 September 2020

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The bank still faces further issues after a scandal in which it spied on one of its senior figures who was moving to a rival bank. The chief operating officer was ousted, and last year former CEO Tidjane Thiam stood down after a four-year stint.

The Swiss financial watchdog FINMA today announced that it has started enforcement proceedings against Credit Suisse after it spied on former employees resulting in the departure of ex-chief executive officer Tidjane Thiam.

The Zurich-listed bank last year became embroiled in a scandal after it emerged that former chief operating officer Pierre-Olivier Bouee had authorised agents to follow Iqbal Khan, a senior banker who had left to join rival UBS. It emerged that Credit Suisse’s former human resources head, Peter Goerke, had also been monitored.

Last year Thiam resigned from his post and Thomas Gottstein, who had been at the bank for two decades, took over as CEO. Thiam, born in the Ivory Coast, had joined Credit Suisse in 2015, having been CEO of the UK’s Prudential. During his watch, Credit Suisse’s fortunes improved, with the bank restructuring certain business lines and increasing its Asia focus. 

An internal Credit Suisse investigation found that Thiam was unaware of the spying, and Bouee was dismissed. 

Last December, the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority, aka FINMA, started an investigation into the episode and appointed an independent auditor to clarify corporate governance questions and the use of electronic communications in connection with the spying.

“The auditor’s investigation has now been completed. 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,” the regulator said in a statement today. 

“FINMA will inform the public about the conclusion of the enforcement proceedings. It will not comment further on the content of the ongoing proceedings or the date when the proceedings may be concluded. Typically, such proceedings can be expected to take several months,” the watchdog added. 

The bank said it noted the decision by FINMA and will continue to fully cooperate with the regulator.

“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,” it said, adding it could not comment further at this stage.

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