Saturday, October 31, 2020

Swiss prosecutor charges renovator Hans Ziegler with insider trading, bribery

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The Swiss prosecutor is pursuing charges of insider trading, collusion, and bribery against a high-profile Swiss turnaround expert. The case represents a far tougher tone from Swiss enforcers on white-collar crime.

Switzerland’s attorney general on Thursday filed an indictment against Hans Ziegler over exploiting trade secrets, industrial espionage, and bribery of private individual between 2013 and 2016, it said in a statement on Thursday. A second individual, who wasn’t named, faces several counts of insider trading as well.

The charges cap a four-year investigation into Ziegler, one of Switzerland’s most respected and best-known turnaround experts. It coincides with far harsher enforcement of insider trading rules, which were buttressed more than ten years ago.

High-Profile Roles

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Ziegler has been a board member of apparel maker Charles Voegele, tech conglomerate OC Oerlikon, and steel products maker Schmolz+Bickenbach. The Swiss veteran had already in 2017 been sanctioned and fined 1.4 million Swiss francs ($1.5 million) by financial regulator Finma, who had referred the case on to the attorney general for potential criminal prosecution.

The attorney general didn’t mention the companies involved, beyond accusing the 68-year-old Ziegler of abusing his position and knowledge for trading. One charge relates to the sale of a foreign subsidiary to a buyer, who was being advised at the time by the second, unnamed defendant, the prosecutor said.

Deal Kickback

Ziegler demanded – and received – 150,000 francs in payment from the person after the sale, according to the attorney general. The transaction equates to the bribery charge against Ziegler, who couldn’t be reached for comment.

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The indictment accuses Ziegler of enriching himself by 2 million francs by exploiting privileged knowledge in connection with deals conducted by 11 companies. He did so as a board director of four publicly-listed companies as well as adviser to two consulting firms – all unnamed – the prosecutor alleged.

Lax Enforcement

If enforcement of insider trading until now has been lax, the Ziegler case, as well as one into an ex-Swiss bank CEO which emerged seven months ago, sent shockwaves through financial circles. Very few people are convicted of insider trading in Switzerland.

Trading crimes are typically uncovered by Finma or by the Swiss stock exchange, which houses market supervision and investigative arm.

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