Bank Sarasin strikes against Hildebrand info leak

Bank Sarasin, the Swiss private bank whose employee leaked details of a currency transaction by the wife of SNB chairman Philipp Hildebrand, has filed a charge against the dismissed employee for violating bank client confidentiality and commercial secrecy.

The bank says the criminal charge was filed on January 5 at the Zurich Public Prosecutor’s Office, which has already begun investigating. The charge is directed against a male employee in IT Support and “against third parties for inducement to violate bank client confidentiality and for exploiting the violation of commercial secrecy.” 

In August last year Hildebrand’s wife Kashya, a former currency trader, bought US dollars with 400,000 Swiss francs days before the Swiss central bank imposed a cap on the currency. Subsequent investigations by both banking authorities and the auditing firm PwC cleared Hildebrand and his wife of any wrongdoing.

Bank Sarasin fired the employee on January 3, and says it has no reason to believe anyone else breached bank confidentiality in connection with the client relationship with the Hildebrand family.

“Instead of reporting transactions that he subjectively thought conspicuous to his line manager or to the Bank’s compliance department, the employee, according to his own testimony, confided in a lawyer who was known to him personally,” the bank said in a statement.

The as yet un-named employee has admitted he disclosed documents relating to the transactions to a lawyer with close links to the Swiss People’s Party (Schweizerische Volkspartei, SVP). The lawyer then arranged a meeting on November 11 last year with National Councillor Christoph Blocher.

Blocher has been fiercely critical of the SNB and Hildebrand as its chairman, and while some local media have called for greater transparency from the central bank and its top executives, others have suggested a politically motivated conspiracy to discredit Hildebrand, a 48-year old who became one of the SNB’s three governors in 2003.

The charge brought by Bank Sarasin is also directed against “persons who possibly induced the Bank’s employee to violate bank client confidentiality and who received confidential information and exploited it for their own or other people’s purposes…Bank Sarasin reserves the right to take further legal action,” a statement said. “

In particular it could make a civil claim for damages and/or make a complaint to the Swiss Press Council about erroneous reporting relating to Bank Sarasin in a Swiss weekly newspaper.”

One of the titles thought to be involved is the privately owned weekly paper Die Weltwoche, based in Zurich.

Bank Sarasin has also confirmed that the account given by Hildebrand matches that of the dismissed employee. It added: “The employee had no contact with Mr Hildebrand. Mr Hildebrand’s longstanding personal client advisor was never at any time put under pressure by Mr Hildebrand. The data was stolen by taking screen shots of the Hildebrand family’s portfolio and of currency transactions.” 

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