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Credit Suisse’s exorcism has only just begun

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António Horta-Osório speaks in London, Britain, February 10, 2015. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

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LONDON, Oct 20 (Reuters Breakingviews) - António Horta-Osório is expelling ghosts at Credit Suisse (CSGN.S). The Swiss bank’s new chair has settled a Mozambican scandal for $475 million, while a spying saga that toppled previous Chief Executive Tidjane Thiam’s job has also been laid to rest. But the demons of collapsed clients Greensill Capital and Archegos Capital Management still linger.

The former Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY.L) boss is trying to draw a line under the $28 billion Swiss lender’s scandal-ridden past. Swiss regulator FINMA found “serious breaches of supervisory law” in Credit Suisse’s surveillance of employees but is largely satisfied with measures to stop it from happening again.

The Mozambique saga proved costlier. Settlements unveiled late on Tuesday relate to $1 billion of bonds and a syndicated loan that Credit Suisse arranged for the African country between 2013 and 2016, much of which ended up in the pockets of bankers and government officials.

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Credit Suisse negotiated deals with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and Department of Justice worth $275 million. It will also pay $200 million to Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority and forgive $200 million of debt owed by the African nation. After factoring in past provisions and writedowns to the value of the loan, the bank faces an incremental $230 million hit to its third-quarter results. That’s roughly 40% of expected pre-tax profit, using company-compiled analyst estimates.

Yet the costs may still grow. Creditors in the Mozambican case are pursuing the bank through a civil case in London. And Horta-Osório had to accept a 3-year deferred prosecution agreement with the DOJ, which requires the bank to keep beefing up its compliance and controls and report on its progress.

Meanwhile the Greensill saga is far from over. At the end of September, Credit Suisse said it had managed to recover about $7 billion for investors in supply-chain funds linked to the defunct UK startup, leaving up to $3 billion of questionable credit. It’s also facing a class-action lawsuit by U.S. investors, who allege that the bank misled them about its risk-management controls. Finally, regulators including FINMA, the DOJ and the SEC have asked Credit Suisse for documents as part of possible inquiries or investigations into Greensill and hedge fund Archegos, which cost the bank $5.5 billion when it collapsed earlier this year. Horta-Osório’s exorcism has only just begun.

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CONTEXT NEWS

- Credit Suisse on Oct. 19 said it had agreed to pay about $475 million to American and British authorities to resolve bribery and fraud charges relating to a $2 billion Mozambican corruption scandal.

- The settlement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the Department of Justice and Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority came on the same day that Switzerland’s financial regulator reprimanded the bank over a corporate espionage saga that led to the exit of previous Chief Executive Tidjane Thiam.

- Credit Suisse’s European subsidiary pleaded guilty in a U.S. federal court to one criminal count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, while the group has entered a 3-year deferred prosecution agreement with the DOJ. That will require the bank to continue cooperating with any ongoing investigations and improve its compliance systems.

- Credit Suisse expects to take a $230 million hit in relation to the various cases in its third-quarter results.

- Credit Suisse shares were down 1.3% at 9.66 Swiss francs as of 0715 GMT on Oct. 19.

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Editing by Peter Thal Larsen and Oliver Taslic

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