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Hildebrand affair

Duo fined for revealing ex-SNB chief’s bank details

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A politician and a former bank IT worker have been given suspended fines for their part in revealing the private bank details of ex-Swiss National Bank (SNB) boss Philipp Hildebrand. The leak led to Hildebrand’s resignation as central bank president in 2012.

A Zurich court ruled on Wednesday that a former Bank J Safra Sarasin employee illegally conspired with a rightwing People’s Party cantonal politician to reveal Hildebrand’s personal bank records in 2011. The data showed large foreign exchange transfers weeks before the SNB intervened to stabilise the Swiss franc.

The transfers were then published in the media, leading to accusations that the SNB boss had indulged in insider trading. An investigation proved this allegation to be baseless as Hildebrand’s then wife had conducted the trades. But the row heaped so much pressure on Hildebrand’s head that he was forced to step down in January 2012, just two years into the job.

The Zurich court handed out suspended fines to both the former Sarasin employee and canton Thurgau politician Hermann Lei. The judge handed out a more sever fine for Lei because his role was motivated by “furthering his political career” rather than idealistic thinking.

The verdicts are subject to possible appeals.

Currency policy

At the time of the leak, the People’s Party was campaigning against the SNB policy of buying up large amounts of euros to defend the franc. Hildebrand was a personal target of such political attacks.

People’s Party strongman Christoph Blocher was also implicated in the leak, but no charges were laid following a police investigation that took evidence from his offices and one of his homes.

Hildebrand has since divorced from his wife and taken up a new job at United States investment firm BlackRock.

The SNB had to abandon its euro-franc peg in January of last year as the cost of maintaining the CHF1.20 exchange rate was proving too burdensome. The central bank’s foreign currency reserves had rocketed to record levels and would have grown even faster had the peg remained in place.


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