Switzerland's top banker – and his wife – in insider trading row
National Bank denies that Swiss franc currency dealings broke rules
The president of Switzerland's central bank was under pressure to resign last night after allegations that he had used insider information to reap huge profits from foreign exchange transactions before the Swiss franc was devalued and pegged to the euro last year.
The charges against Philipp Hildebrand, head of the Swiss National Bank (SNB), were made by the weekly newspaper Die Weltwoche yesterday – hours after Mr Hildebrand's wife admitted to privately using last year's soaring franc to buy $500,000, which were later converted back at a profit.
The bank said last month that Mr Hildebrand's wife, Kashya, a former currency trader who now runs a Zurich art gallery, bought an unspecified amount of US dollars for herself and her daughter. The bank did not say who authorised the sale, but it said its oversight body had found no signs of improper transactions.
A report by auditors at PricewaterhouseCoopers cites emails indicating that Mr Hildebrand learnt of his wife's decision to buy $504,000 for SFr400,000 on 16 August – a day after the transaction occurred.
But Die Weltwoche said it had obtained bank statements showing that Mr Hildebrand had himself purchased large sums in US dollars in the months before his bank devalued the franc in September last year.
"In March alone he bought US dollars for SFr1.1m," the paper said in a statement released before yesterday's article. "It is classic [foreign exchange] speculation," claimed Philipp Gut, the paper's deputy editor in an interview. "The only option is for him to step down," he added.
The SNB declined to comment on the allegations yesterday.
The newspaper reported that Mr Hildebrand also bought more than $500,000 in two transactions in August last year, weeks before the franc was devalued. It added that three weeks after the devaluation, Mr Hildebrand sold his dollar holdings for a profit of SFr75,000.
Mr Gut said an employee from Bank Sarasin, the Swiss bank where the Hildebrands hold their private accounts, had told the newspaper that it was Mr Hildebrand, not his wife, who had bought the dollars before the franc's devaluation.
Bank Sarasin revealed on Tuesday that it had sacked an unnamed employee who had breached Swiss banking secrecy laws by leaking confidential information on transactions "by the family of the president of the Swiss National Bank".
Switzerland decided to devalue its currency early last autumn after businesses complained that its soaring value had hit exports. Tourism had also suffered as visitors were deterred by the country's high prices.
On 6 September last year, the SNB took the unprecedented step of pegging the franc to the euro at a minimum exchange rate of SFr1.20. The surprise move caused the value of the franc to plummet.
Die Weltwoche's disclosures were the latest twist in an alleged banking scandal at SNB which has gripped Switzerland since shortly before Christmas when, in an apparent attempt to quell rumours about its head, the bank disclosed that Mrs Hildebrand had bought unspecified amounts in dollars for herself and her daughter on a purely private basis.
SNB later issued an unsolicited statement insisting that rumours of wrongdoing by Mr Hildebrand were unfounded and that the bank's rules against insider trading had not been breached.
The disclosures about Mrs Hildebrand's dollar purchases nevertheless prompted a media storm, which her public statements on Tuesday seemed designed to defuse.
- 1 Avengers: Age of Ultron: Nearly 700 German cinemas refuse to show movie
- 2 Donald Trump decides that Baltimore riots are Barack Obama's fault
- 3 X Factor in crisis as numbers of people auditioning plummets
- 4 General Election 2015: Stephen Hawking says he will vote Labour
- 5 Baltimore riots: Furious mother marches her son home live on TV
Bali Nine executions live: Indonesian firing squad shoots dead eight drug offenders despite outcry around world, but a ninth is spared
Keith Harris dead: Orville the Duck ventriloquist dies aged 67 following battle with cancer
The four utterly contradictory polls that tell the story of this election and why it is pointless trying to predict the outcome
Donald Trump decides that Baltimore riots are Barack Obama's fault
General Election 2015: Prospect of Labour-SNP coalition makes one in four voters less likely to support Ed Miliband, says survey
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
EU exit would hit UK economy much harder than neighbouring countries, study finds
Andrew Lloyd Webber: Phantom of the Opera writer mocked after issuing a warning about Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon
General election 2015: Labour will toughen hate crimes legislation surrounding Islamophobia
£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm of accountants based ...
£30000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a financial services c...
£30000 - £32000 per annum + car allowance and on call: Ashdown Group: A succes...
£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Well established small company ...