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Swiss regulator mulls disciplinary action against Credit Suisse

SNB Credit Suisse Reuters/Eduardo Munoz
Finma has defended the decision to write down 16 billion Swiss francs of Credit Suisse AT1 debt to zero as part of the forced rescue merger

Swiss financial regulator Finma said it was considering whether to take disciplinary action against Credit Suisse managers after Switzerland’s second-largest bank had to be rescued last week by UBS.

Finma president Marlene Amstad told Swiss newspaper NZZ am Sonntag it was “still open” whether new proceedings would be started, but the regulator’s main focus was on “the transitional phase of integration” and “preserving financial stability”.

UBS agreed to buy Credit Suisse for 3 billion Swiss francs ($3.26 billion) in stock a week ago and to assume up to 5 billion francs in losses in a merger engineered by Swiss authorities during a period of market turmoil in global banking.

Credit Suisse on Sunday declined to comment on the Finma president’s statement when asked by Reuters for a response.

Asked whether Finma is looking into holding current Credit Suisse managers accountable for the collapse of Switzerland’s second-largest bank, Amstad said it is “exploring the options”.

“CS had a cultural problem that translated into a lack of responsibilities,” Amstad was quoted as saying by NZZ, adding: “Numerous mistakes were made over several years”.

Finma had conducted six public “enforcement proceedings” against Credit Suisse in recent years, Amstad said.

“We have intervened and used our strongest instruments,” she said of its previous moves.

Amstad also defended Switzerland’s decision to write down 16 billion Swiss francs of Credit Suisse additional tier 1 (AT1) debt, to zero as part of the forced rescue merger.

“The AT1 instruments contractually provide that they will be fully written off in the event of a trigger event, in particular the granting of extraordinary government support,” Amstad said.

“The bonds were created precisely for such situations.”

In a separate interview with Swiss newspaper SonntagsZeitung, Finma’s CEO Urban Angehrn defended its role in dealing with Credit Suisse prior to the takeover.

“We intervened consistently in these cases, used our instruments, and they had an effect,” he said. “We do not run the bank, that responsibility lies with the board of directors and the management of the bank.”

Angehrn also said there are open discussions about widening Finma’s competencies, such as its ability to issue fines, which despite having “sharp instruments” it currently does not have.

“We do not have a ‘senior managers regime’, which could help with the issue of manager responsibility, and Finma is limited in communicating cases.”