Zurich suicide's widow vents anger at AGM

 

Associate Business Editor

The family and widow of the late finance chief at Zurich Insurance told shareholders at the company's annual meeting yesterday that they could not accept a report clearing the business and its former chairman Josef Ackermann of any responsibility for his death.

The AGM in Switzerland was attended by the daughter, mother and brother of Pierre Wauthier as well as his widow Fabienne.

Speaking on stage the meeting she said: “We cannot accept your conclusion that his suicide was unaccountable.” Michel Wauthier, his brother, said: “It was not normal pressure at the office that led to his suicide.”

It comes amid intense scrutiny over the pressure exerted on financial services industry workers at all levels and across banking as well as insurance amid a number of high profile deaths.

Mr Wauthier took his own life last August. He left a note behind describing himself as “demoralised” and criticised of what he characterised as a new and aggressive tone at the firm under Mr Ackermann, a former boss of Deutsche Bank and an investment banker by trade.

Mr Wautheir had been an active man: a triathlete and father of two, he had run a half-marathon on his 50th birthday three years ago.

He was generally popular with co-workers, by contrast to Mr Ackermann who former staffers had a much more ambivalent view of. One said of Mr Ackermann “it was like the ego has landed” as the hard charging banker sought to bring some of high octane world of investment banking to the rather cozier, and somewhat stuffy world of Swiss insurance.

Mr Ackermann, who joined Zurich after a tumultuous decade at the head of Deutsche, and Mr Wautheir had worked together for 15 months before the latter's untimely death.

Mr Ackermann stepped down several days later after mr Watheir's death but has always denied that he had any responsibility for what he called a “very tragic event”.

An investigation on behalf of Switzerland's financial regulator Finma by law firm Homburger had found “no indication” that the finance chief was put under undue or inappropriate pressure. Zurich's chairman Tom de Swaan has defended the work saying it had been conducted “carefully and conclusively”.

But in an interview with the Reuters news agency Mrs Wauthier said she was never approached by the law firm, which had previously carried out work for Zurich.

Mrs Wauthier also said in the interview that she wanted the company to reconsider whether the inquiry was complete and to provide an explanation for Mr Ackermann's resignation so soon after her husband's death if he was not accepting any blame.

“We are not going there for money nor revenge,” she added.

A Zurich spokesman Angel Serna, when asked by Reuters for comment on Mrs Wauthier's version of events, told the agency: “We are still saddened by what has happened, and we will never know the reasons for his irreversible decision.”

A call seeking comment yesterday was not returned.

The issue of pressure and workload at all levels across the financial services industry has been high on the agenda in London as a result of a number of high profile deaths in recent months, notably in the banking industry.

The death of an intern at Bank of America Merrill Lynch sparked a review into the treatment of junior staff. An inquest later found he died as a result of epilepsy which could have been triggered by fatigue as a result of over work.

However the coroner told the family of the 21-year-old German-born Moritz Erhardt that this was only one possible explanation.

Last month a coroner concluded that retired Deutsche Bank executive William Broeksmit took his own life after he was found hanged in London. His psychologist had said he was “very anxious” about authorities investigating the bank, though the bank said in a statement that he was “not under suspicion of wrongdoing in any matter”.

Another inquest in May, will look at the death of J.P. Morgan staffer Gabriel Magee. He fell from the bank's 33-story tower in London in January, just weeks before a colleague had apparently committed suicide in Hong Kong.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Life and Style
Scientist have developed a test which predicts whether you'll live for another ten years
health
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Advisor is r...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

SThree: HR Benefits Manager

£40000 - £50000 per annum + pro rata: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn