Credit Suisse admits to second case of spying on a top executive
Credit Suisse has admitted to spying on a second top executive, reigniting a scandal over the bank’s actions just as it had begun to emerge from initial allegations of snooping.
In a statement on Monday the Swiss bank said its former chief operations officer, Pierre-Olivier Bouée, had ordered surveillance of its former head of human resources, Peter Goerke. It said chief executive Tidjane Thiam had not been aware of the activity.
Credit Suisse last week launched a hastily arranged investigation after fresh allegations of corporate espionage emerged. Switzerland’s NZZ newspaper reported that Mr Goerke was tracked by a team of eight people, who monitored his home and trailed him around Zurich.
The revelations followed similar action against the bank’s former head of wealth management, Iqbal Khan, who was also shadowed.
Credit Suisse said Mr Bouée had orchestrated both instances. The bank’s board was now terminating its previous settlement with Mr Bouée, who would be considered as having been fired from his former position, it added in the statement.
“The board of directors considers the observation of Peter Goerke to be unacceptable and completely inappropriate. In no way did this operation — or the subsequent observation of Iqbal Khan — correspond to the corporate culture of Credit Suisse,” the bank’s board said on Monday.
Mr Thiam has been under mounting pressure since the Khan affair exploded into the open this year, shocking Switzerland’s staid and notoriously discreet financial community.
Mr Khan discovered his followers, leading to a confrontation in downtown Zurich, and weeks of lurid headlines detailing a spectacular personal breakdown between him and Mr Thiam. Mr Khan has since joined rival UBS as co-head of its flagship wealth management arm.
The cases raise serious questions over Credit Suisse’s public communication of its position and the findings of its investigations.
The spying against Mr Khan was originally characterised by the bank as a rogue, isolated operation that had been conducted off the books by Mr Bouée on his own initiative.
Last week, the bank initially staunchly denied that the surveillance against Mr Goerke had occurred, insisting that its original investigation following the Khan affair had been exhaustive and found no evidence of further malfeasance.
In its statement on Monday, Credit Suisse said previous inconsistencies in its communications stemmed from the implicated staff having lied to lawyers conducting its internal investigations.
“The observation of Peter Goerke, which has now been confirmed, is inexcusable,” said chairman of the board, Urs Rohner. “It is of grave concern that the responsible individuals failed to answer truthfully about this observation during the external investigation in September 2019.
“We are aware that the observations of Iqbal Khan and Peter Goerke have damaged the reputation of our bank. With the measures that we have put in place, we are sending a clear message that the board of directors firmly rejects a culture of observation.”
Following the news that the surveillance of Khan was not an isolated incident, Switzerland’s market regulator, Finma, announced on Friday that it was appointing an external auditor to formally probe the bank.