December 17, 2019 / 6:26 AM / a month ago

Credit Suisse investigates report of surveillance on second executive

ZURICH (Reuters) - Credit Suisse (CSGN.S) is looking into a report by a Swiss newspaper that its then-human resources boss was followed by private detectives in February, reviving concerns about its practices after a similar surveillance operation was uncovered in September.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Swiss bank Credit Suisse is seen at its headquarters at the Paradeplatz square in Zurich, Switzerland October 1, 2019. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

The detailed report in the conservative Neue Zuercher Zeitung (NZZ), a Swiss newspaper widely read in the financial industry, suggests the surveillance of former wealth management boss Iqbal Khan, which shook the Swiss financial sector and damaged the bank’s reputation, may not be an isolated incident as Credit Suisse has said.

The bank said it would carry out both an internal and independent assessment of the NZZ allegations.

“Credit Suisse is examining the new information as revealed by the media in internal and external reviews,” a spokesman said.

The bank had earlier referred to a statement it gave to the paper, saying the investigation it launched via law firm Homburger into the Khan incident had turned up no evidence that other Credit Suisse employees had been under observation.

The NZZ cited documents and photographs that it said arose from the surveillance of former human resources head Peter Goerke in February, just before he left Credit Suisse’s management board to become a senior adviser at the bank.

“The circumstances indicate that it was Credit Suisse that via a go-between gave the mandate for this surveillance,” the paper said, adding that it was unclear why Goerke was followed.

Goerke could not be reached immediately for comment.

The inquiry into the tailing of Khan cleared Credit Suisse Chief Executive Tidjane Thiam but cost the job of his right-hand man, then-chief operating officer Pierre-Olivier Bouee.

Credit Suisse shares were 0.4% lower by 1200 GMT, while the European banking sector index .SX7P was down 1%.

“It’s not enough to sell out but I’m not amused,” said one top-50 shareholder in Credit Suisse, on condition of anonymity. “He (Thiam) really needs to make clear that these things are not going to happen again.”

INAPPROPRIATE SURVEILLANCE

The Khan case prompted a criminal investigation by Zurich prosecutors, which is still open, after the star banker confronted a detective following him in September.

Thiam has said he did not directly or indirectly authorize the surveillance of Khan, who left after a spat with Thiam and later joined arch-rival UBS Group (UBSG.S). The investigation looked into whether Khan was trying to recruit former colleagues to join him at UBS, but found no evidence that he was.

Credit Suisse Chairman Urs Rohner apologized to Khan in October for an “inappropriate surveillance operation” and said the bank did not condone the shadowing of employees.

NZZ said the objective of the three-day “Project Kuesnacht” operation in February was to track the movements of Goerke, who had followed Thiam to Credit Suisse from British insurer Prudential, to see where he went and with whom he met.

The operation cost 12,000 Swiss francs ($12,035) and involved four cars with two detectives each, it said.

Thiam said in October a “media campaign” surrounding the tailing of Khan had not deterred clients and had left business unscathed.

Last week the Wall Street Journal reported that a former Credit Suisse executive told top bank executives as well as U.S. and Swiss authorities that she was put under surveillance in 2017 while in a dispute with the bank.

Credit Suisse said it did a thorough internal investigation and found her claims were baseless.

($1 = 0.9972 Swiss francs)

Additional reporting by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi in Zurich and Simon Jessop in London; Editing by Stephen Coates, Kirsten Donovan

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