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Credit Suisse overhauls management as it takes $4.7 billion hit on Archegos

ZURICH (Reuters) - Credit Suisse said on Tuesday it will take a 4.4 billion Swiss franc ($4.7 billion) hit from dealings with Archegos Capital Management, prompting it to overhaul the leadership of its investment bank and risk divisions.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Swiss bank Credit Suisse is seen at its headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland March 24, 2021. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

The scandal-hit bank now expects to post a loss for the first quarter of around 900 million Swiss francs. It is also suspending its share buyback plans and cutting its dividend by two thirds.

Switzerland’s No. 2 bank, which has dumped over $2 billion worth of stock to end exposure to the New York investment fund run by former Tiger Asia manager Bill Hwang, said Chief Risk and Compliance Officer Lara Warner and investment banking head Brian Chin were stepping down following the losses.

The Archegos hit eclipses the bank’s 2.7 billion Swiss franc net profit last year, with questions over how its exposure to Hwang became so big remaining unanswered.

“The significant loss in our Prime Services business relating to the failure of a US-based hedge fund is unacceptable,” Credit Suisse Chief Executive Thomas Gottstein said in a statement. “Serious lessons will be learned.”

It is the second major scandal for Credit Suisse in just over a month after the collapse of Greensill Capital, with the bank’s shares down by a quarter since March 1.

The bank’s board has launched an investigation into the Archegos losses and also begun a probe into its $10 billion supply chain funds which invested in bonds issued by Greensill.

Proposed bonuses for executive board members have been scrapped and outgoing chairman Urs Rohner, who has presided over the bank since 2011, will forgo his 1.5 million Swiss franc chair fee for the year.

Incoming chairman António Horta-Osório, currently CEO of Britain’s Lloyds Bank, is being kept apprised of the investigations, which are being led by a “very senior member” of the board, a source familiar with the matter said.

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Credit Suisse shares were up 1.26% at 1025 GMT as the bank said the Archegos loss had overshadowed a “strong” start to the year by its investment bank and wealth management units.

The bank said Christian Meissner, who ran investment banking at Bank of America before joining Credit Suisse last year, would be appointed chief of the investment bank from May 1. Joachim Oechslin will resume on an interim basis the role of chief risk officer, which he held previously until February 2019, while Thomas Grotzer will become interim global head of compliance.

“At least - in our opinion - personnel consequences have now been taken. The main damage, however, has been inflicted on shareholders, who have to make do with a lower dividend and a suspended share buyback,” said Michael Kunz, an analyst at Zuercher Kantonalbank.

“In view of the bank’s vulnerability to risk....it does not seem appropriate to us to recommend bets on the securities of CS Group.”

Warner and Chin are paying the price for a year in which Credit Suisse’s risk management protocols have come under harsh scrutiny. JPMorgan Chase & Co analysts estimate that combined losses from the Archegos and Greensill scandals could add up to $7.5 billion.

Australian Warner only took on the risk management and compliance role in August last year, having previously been group head of compliance and chief financial officer of the investment bank. Chin ran the bank’s global markets unit between 2016 and 2020 before it was rolled into the investment bank.

Credit Suisse has also been in touch with all members of its core regulatory college -- comprised of Swiss financial market supervisor FINMA, Britian’s Prudential Regulation Authority and the U.S. Federal Reserve -- over the Archegos matter, the source familiar with the matter added. FINMA confirmed it was in contact with Credit Suisse on the issue, but declined further comment.

ARCHEGOS IMPLOSION

Archegos fell apart late last month when its debt-laden bets on stocks of certain media companies unraveled. Credit Suisse and other banks, which acted as Archegos’ brokers, had to scramble to sell the shares they held as collateral and unwind the trades.

The episode, along with Greensill, adds to pressure on CEO Gottstein who has been trying to move Credit Suisse on from an earlier string of bad headlines spanning a spy scandal that ousted predecessor Tidjane Thiam to a $450 million write-down on a hedge fund investment.

Last month Credit Suisse said it was separating its asset management business from its wealth unit and bringing in former UBS executive Ulrich Koerner to lead the funds business.

“Obviously heads are rolling. After any sort of blow up there’s always tighter control,” said Jason Teh, chief investment officer at Vertium Asset Management in Sydney, adding the bank had lost a lot of money and its share price would struggle to rally.

Graphic: Credit Suisse troubles:

While some banks were able to relatively quickly offload collateral related to Archegos, including shares of ViacomCBS, Baidu Inc and Tencent Music Entertainment Group, Credit Suisse was still selling on Monday.

A source familiar with the trading said the bank had offered 34 million shares of ViacomCBS priced between $41 and $42.75; 14 million American depository receipts of Vipshop Holdings Ltd between $28.50 and $29.50, and 11 million shares of Farfetch Ltd priced between $47.50 and $49.25 in secondary offerings.

Credit Suisse has now substantially reduced the vast bulk of its exposure to Archegos, the first source said, although some residual risk remained.

Reporting by Matt Scuffham in New York, Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi and John Revill in Zurich; Additional reporting by Tom Westbrook in Singapore; Writing by Rachel Armstrong; Editing by Ira Iosebashvili, Edwina Gibbs, Kirsten Donovan

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