Swiss watchdog nominates ex-UBS banker to be new head -sources

ZURICH Fri Feb 28, 2014 2:27pm EST

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ZURICH Feb 28 (Reuters) - A British-born former UBS banker has been nominated to lead Switzerland's financial regulator after the surprise exit of its former head, three sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Mark Branson, who was named temporary head of FINMA when Chief Executive Patrick Raaflaub stepped down suddenly in January, has been proposed by the regulator's board for the permanent job, the sources said.

The nomination is en route to the Swiss government for formal approval, but the timing is unclear, they said.

Though Branson, 45, is seen both in banking and government circles as the best qualified candidate for the top job, his candidacy faces two obstacles.

The first is his British nationality, which will play a role in the politically charged nomination process. The second is his past ties to UBS, which have led several lawmakers to voice displeasure.

One source said it was unclear whether Switzerland's finance minister, Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, had already introduced Branson's nomination to the cabinet and the government was taking its time vetting him, or whether the finance minister is delaying the formal nomination for political reasons.

"It's complicated," the source said.

Spokesmen for both FINMA and the Swiss government declined to comment. Through a FINMA spokesman, Branson also declined to comment.

Branson, who switched to the regulatory role in 2010 after 13 years with the bank, led UBS in Japan at a time when its traders there manipulated benchmark interest rates. UBS admitted the wrongdoing, cooperated with regulators and was fined $1.5 billion for the misconduct in 2012.

Branson himself, who was never accused of any wrongdoing, was cleared by the Swiss regulator. (Additional reporting by Oliver Hirt; editing by Jane Baird)

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