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October 1, 2019updated 07 Oct 2019 11:27am

Credit Suisse COO resigns over spying scandal

By Oliver Williams

Pierre-Olivier Bouée, the chief operating officer (COO) of Credit Suisse, has resigned, with immediate effect, after an investigation found he ordered the surveillance of Iqbal Khan, its outgoing head of wealth management.

The spying affair, in which three unidentified men trailed Khan, his wife and child across the streets of Zurich, has rocked the Swiss banking sector.

Last week, Khan filed a criminal complaint with the Zurich attorney’s office. Today, Credit Suisse made a statement on the results of an investigation led by Homburger, a corporate law firm, on behalf of the board of directors.

“On August 29, 2019, when UBS announced the employment of Iqbal Khan, Credit Suisse’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) ordered the Credit Suisse Head of Global Security Services to initiate the observation of Iqbal Khan,” the statement said. It went on to say that the COO made the decision alone, without seeking approval from CEO Tidjane Thiam or any other board member.

Khan’s working relationship with Thiam had soured in the runup to his defection to UBS. The Financial Times quoted unnamed sources saying the two were barely on speaking terms at work.

There was also no evidence that Khan made any attempt to coax Credit Suisse employees to follow him to UBS, which was the reason Bouée had him followed in the first place.

“The Board of Directors considers that the mandate for the observation of Iqbal Khan was wrong and disproportionate and has resulted in severe reputational damage to the bank”, the statement read.

Khan had defected to Credit Suisse’s biggest rival, UBS, just weeks before he noticed the surveillance operation, which was operated by spy firm Investigo.

Bouée joined Credit Suisse following Thiam’s appointment as CEO. The two had worked together at the British insurer Prudential where the former was group chief risk officer. Bouée was formally at McKinsey and graduated from France’s Ecole Nationale d’Administration.

Replacing Bouée will be Credit Suisse’s current chief financial officer, James B. Walker, who has been appointed to COO with immediate effect.

 

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