Switzerland’s highest court has imposed suspended fines on a local politician and a former bank worker for leaking the personal bank transactions of former Swiss National Bank (SNB) chairman Philipp Hildebrand. The leak forced Hildebrand to resign in 2012.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ended a long legal process by rejecting claims by the duo that they had done nothing wrong and should not have been fined by a Zurich court in April. While the amount of the fines was changed slightly, the ruling has more importantly confirmed that the pair were in the wrong.
Canton Thurgau Swiss People’s Party politician Hermann Lei, who has been named because he holds public office, and the ex-IT employee, who worked at the bank where Hildebrand kept his personal account, conspired to make controversial transactions public in 2011.
The transactions showed large scale currency exchanges just as the SNB started to intervene heavily in the forex markets to stabilize the franc. A subsequent inquiry cleared Hildebrand of insider trading suspicions after he blamed his wife for making the trades.
However, the scandal - along with sustained political pressure against the SNB’s monetary policies - forced Hildebrand to resign in January 2012, less than two years into his tenure.
It later emerged that the IT worker had passed on details of the Hildebrands’ trades to Hermann Lei, who was an old school friend. Lei then gave these details to Christoph Blocher - strongman of the People’s Party – who was later cleared of any wrongdoing. They were also leaked to journalists, turning the ‘Hildebrand affair’ into a public scandal.
In April, the duo were handed suspended fines by a Zurich court that admonished Lei for trying to “further his political career” by his actions.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court rejected Lei’s defence that he was acting in the public’s interest. It also dismissed claims by the IT worker that he had no idea the bank details would go public when he gave them to Lei.
The judge added that a whistleblower could only go public with information if all other avenues had been exhausted, such as informing the authorities of suspicions.