Baron was employed by Rothschild, new evidence shows

Exclusive: New evidence includes the baron’s Rothschild employment agreement at the time

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The Independent Online

The exclusive Swiss private bank Rothschild did employ the aristocratic financial adviser who lost a Novartis pharmaceuticals heiress $44m (£29m) of her inheritance through disastrous investments, new court filings allege.

Corinna von Schönau claims that Rothschild Bank bore responsibility for the fact that one of its financial advisers, Baron Wilfrid von Plotho, squandered her fortune on high-risk investments that later proved worthless.

She claims he worked for the bank at the time, and that it should therefore compensate her for his disastrous financial advice and its failure to check on his investments.

While she successfully sued the baron in a recent court case in Boston, Massachusetts, Rothschild successfully argued that he was not an agent of the bank at the time. While he was making his duff investments, he was in Massachusetts, “moonlighting” away from the bank, it has argued.

But Ms von Schönau’s legal team has now filed what it claims is new evidence proving that “Rothschild and von Plotho misled the court”. It urges the Boston court to overturn its previous decision.

As well as witness testimony, the new evidence includes the baron’s Rothschild employment agreement at the time, which Ms von Schönau’s team claims is proof he was a bona fide bank employee, acting in Massachusetts in line with his job at the bank. Furthermore, the contract states explicitly that the baron was banned from moonlighting without Rothschild’s permission.

Her lawyers have also obtained and filed as evidence “visit reports” prepared by Rothschild which they claim prove that the bank was supervising the investments made from her accounts and that it even charged and collected fees for managing them.

Further new evidence, she claims, includes a regulatory filing to the US Securities and Exchange Commission proving the baron was managing the Massachusetts investments in his capacity as a Rothschild agent.

Rothschild had, it claims, not made the evidence available at the time of the first court case despite having most of it in its possession and control.

Rothschild repeated a statement given before the legal filings, saying the previous case against it had been thrown out of court and lost on appeal. “We categorically reject the claims that have been made against Rothschild Bank AG,” it said.

Ms von Schönau’s grandfather was behind the Swiss drugs and chemicals group Geigy, which through a series of mergers became the pharmaceuticals giant Novartis. When her mother died in 2002, Ms von Schönau unexpectedly inherited hundreds of millions of shares in Novartis, making her one of Europe’s richest women.

Baron von Plotho, Ms von Schönau alleges, advised her to diversify her portfolio by selling a large portion of her shares, but then lost tens of millions of dollars of her money on highly speculative investments.