ZURICH (Reuters) - Switzerland has opened an enforcement case against Credit Suisse over a spying scandal that led to the ouster of its former CEO, a rare challenge to one of the country’s major lenders.
The move means deeper public scrutiny of Credit Suisse’s top brass as markets watchdog FINMA examines its culture and governance and whether management control failures allowed snooping on former executive board members.
FINMA said on Wednesday it will pursue indications of violations of supervisory law and, in particular, the question of how these activities were documented and controlled. Such processes often take a few months, the agency said.
Credit Suisse said it would cooperate “to ensure a complete and expeditious conclusion of the review of this episode and incorporate lessons learned.”
The move is a set-back for Chairman Urs Rohner who is due to step down in 2021 after about a dozen years as head of the board.
Revelations of corporate espionage rocked the discreet world of Swiss banking last year when it emerged Credit Suisse had been spying on former wealth management boss Khan, who was leaving for rival UBS, and former human resources head Peter Goerke.
The bank had hoped that the departure of former Chief Executive Tidjane Thiam over the scandal and his replacement with Thomas Gottstein, a Credit Suisse veteran, would draw a line under the affair.
An internal Credit Suisse probe concluded that Thiam didn’t know about the spying, and that Chief Operating Officer Pierre-Olivier Bouee was responsible. Bouee, a longtime confidant of Thiam, was fired late last year and has not commented publicly on the scandal.
The Swiss watchdog’s rules allow it to take action against individuals if it finds that a bank broke its own internal communication rules or if it strayed from its usual framework for recording management decisions.
Among actions FINMA could take include forcing Credit Suisse to comply with supervisory laws if it finds violations, issue industry bans or even file a complaint with criminal authorities. It cannot levy fines.
Its decision to take enforcement proceedings comes after it hired an auditor to review the bank’s corporate governance and its use of electronic communications in connection with the surveillance.
Credit Suisse tried to remove the auditor, Thomas Werlen, because his law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan had been involved in legal cases against it.
Credit Suisse’s appeal of a lower court decision that backed his appointment is pending in the Swiss Federal Supreme Court.
FINMA declined to comment on how Credit Suisse’s appeal and the pending court decision could impact its enforcement proceedings.
Credit Suisse reiterated on Wednesday that spying on employees was not part of its culture.
Reporting by John Miller; editing by Thomas Seythal and Carmel Crimmins
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