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Credit Suisse Confirms Spying Operation Vs Former HR Chief

Tom Burroughes, Group Editor, 23 December 2019

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The bank has confirmed that an unauthorised spying operation had been set up to track a second former senior figure. The saga has sent shockwaves through the Swiss banking and financial services industry.

The spying scandal at Credit Suisse has taken another twist, with the bank yesterday confirming that its former human resources chief Peter Goerke had been put under observation in February this year.

Switzerland's second-largest bank said an investigation it commissioned via the law firm Homburger found that former chief operating officer Pierre-Olivier Bouée, who has since resigned, had "issued the mandate to have Peter Goerke put under observation. As was the case with Iqbal Khan, this observation was carried out via an intermediary".  Neuen Zuercher Zeitung initially broke the story about Goerke last week.

Khan had resigned to work for rival UBS. The spying operation against Khan had been exposed when Khan confronted men in Zurich whom he said had been following him. The normally staid world of Swiss banking was hit by a saga that seemed to have more in common with a Cold War spy drama.

Credit Suisse said the new Homburger probe did not find any indication that the Group CEO Tidjane Thiam, other members of the executive board, or members of the board of directors had any knowledge of the observation of Peter Goerke until media reported on it.

"The investigation concludes that Pierre-Olivier Bouée, a former Member of the Executive Board, issued the mandate to have Peter Goerke put under observation. As was the case with Iqbal Khan, this observation was carried out via an intermediary," Credit Suisse said in a statement.

"During questioning by both the [Credit Suisse] board of directors and Homburger following the Iqbal Khan matter, the responsible individuals did not respond truthfully when asked about any additional observations and did not disclose the observation of Peter Goerke. Furthermore, when organising and carrying out the observation of Peter Goerke, they took care not to leave any identifiable trace in the bank’s systems," the statement continued.

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 as promoted by the board of directors," it said. Credit Suisse apologised to Goerke for the observation.

The bank said that it has already taken steps to avoid such actions happening again.

 “The observation of Peter Goerke, which has now been confirmed, is inexcusable. 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," Urs Rohner, board chairman, said.

Credit Suisse said it will continue to cooperate closely with FINMA and now also with the FINMA-appointed independent auditor.

(Editor's note: That two senior former Credit Suisse figures had been spied upon means that, while the bank says investigations haven't pointed the finger at Thiam, the saga raises serious questions about the culture of that bank. As and when next year's shareholder annual meeting rolls around, it may well be that there is going to be a change at the top, if only to ensure a fresh start.)

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