Credit Suisse chairman resigns after internal investigation

GENEVA — Credit Suisse said on Monday its chairman had resigned following an internal investigation that allegedly found he had broken quarantine rules designed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

The resignation of Antonio Horta-Osorio, an Anglo-Portuguese national who took office just eight months ago, was announced shortly after midnight on Monday. It is the latest shake-up for the top Swiss bank which has faced a series of recent problems including bad hedge fund bets and an internal spy scandal.

“I regret that a number of my personal actions have caused hardship for the bank and compromised my ability to represent the bank internally and externally,” Horta-Osorio, 57, said in a statement from the bank. without giving more details.

“So I believe my resignation is in the interest of the bank and its stakeholders at this crucial time.”

Axel Lehmann, a Swiss national and former executive at rival bank UBS who joined Credit Suisse’s board in October, will take over as chairman.

Credit Suisse said Lehmann “succeeds Antonio Horta-Osório, who resigned following a board-ordered investigation.” He did not give details and bank spokesman Dominik von Arx declined to comment beyond the press release.

Swiss media reported on Monday that Horta-Osorio, the former CEO of Lloyds Banking Group in Britain, broke quarantine rules, including traveling to Britain in December and the Wimbledon tennis tournament this summer.

The online news service finews.com, citing two sources familiar with the matter, reported in late December that Horta-Osorio was being investigated over alleged breaches of quarantine.

Leo-Philippe Menzel, spokesperson for the public prosecutor’s office in the Swiss region of St. Gallen, confirmed that he had received a notice from Horta-Osorio that he may have broken the rules of COVID-19 and that he was examining it.

The resignation comes after another difficult year for Credit Suisse. In October, he announced settlements totaling nearly $700 million with UK and US authorities for loans to Mozambican state-owned companies that Swiss regulators said breached anti-money laundering rules.

The Swiss Financial Markets Authority in April announced an investigation and is considering possible sanctions against Credit Suisse after the bank announced it was taking a charge of 4.4 billion Swiss francs ($4.7 billion ) linked to a failure to make margin calls by the American company Archegos Capital.

Credit Suisse did not identify what it called solely a “US-based hedge fund” – but the authority, known as FINMA, did.

FINMA also confirmed the lawsuits against the bank over its so-called supply chain finance funds, or financial instruments reserved for certain customers. The bank announced a pause in redemptions and subscriptions in the funds following insolvency problems linked to partner Greensill Capital.

In 2020, the bank’s CEO, Tidjane Thiam, stepped down after nearly five years on the job, acknowledging that a spy scandal had caused “anxiety and pain” and tarnished Credit Suisse’s reputation. The scandal erupted in 2019 after his former head of wealth management, Iqbal Khan, said the bank was spying on him after he joined UBS.

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