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Rules tightened for SNB board own-accounts

Members of the governing board of the Swiss National Bank (SNB) will face tough restrictions on personal financial transactions under new rules approved on Monday.

The new regulations are a response to the furore over international financial transactions carried out by the wife of former chairman Philipp Hildebrand.

Details of the transactions were made public in January. Although two previous audits of the controversial Hildebrand transactions found no rules had been broken, he was still forced to resign as chairman after losing public confidence.

The SNB described the new rules as “far-reaching restrictions” which it said would come into force on May 1.

“Only savings accounts at the SNB, well-diversified collective investment schemes, payments into occupational pension funds, payments into individual pension fund savings schemes [third pillar] and investments in real estate in Switzerland or abroad will be permissible,” the bank said in a statement.

If board members wish to hold more extensive investments, they must consign these to the management of an independent account manager, who in turn must be approved by the bank “to exclude even the appearance of a conflict of interest or misuse of information”.

Foreign exchange transactions such as those at the heart of the Hildebrand affair will only be allowed if they are being managed by an independent asset manager, the SNB stipulated. However foreign exchange transactions will still be allowed in connection with the purchase, sale or holding of non-financial assets such as real estate.

“Monitoring arrangements will also be significantly tightened,” the bank said, with members of SNB management required to disclose their assets on a quarterly basis.

The regulations were drawn up by a working group led by Zurich commercial lawyer Peter Forstmoser and based on a comparative law report by the Basel Institute on Governance.

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