Final chapter for Tidjane Thiam’s Credit Suisse saga?

By Aurélie M'Bida
Posted on Wednesday, 28 July 2021 08:52

Tidjane Thiam at Credit Suisse in Zurich
Tidjane Thiam at Credit Suisse in Zurich on February 13, 2020. Ennio Leanza/AP/SIPA

Credit Suisse has reached an out-of-court settlement for the criminal proceedings in the Khan case, which led to the departure of the CEO Franco-Ivorian, Tidjane Thiam.

Credit Suisse has reached a settlement on 25 July with “all those involved” in the case that shook the Swiss banking giant in September 2019. It centred on the alleged stalking of its former wealth management star, Iqbal Khan, and Peter Goerke, then head of personnel.

The case did not only harm the image of the Zurich-based financial institution, it also ended up damaging the reputation of its CEO at the time, the Franco-Ivorian banker Tidjane Thiam.

Thiam had completely restructured Credit Suisse during his tenure, at the cost of heavy losses during the first three years. He was  forced to resign in early 2020. His departure came on 14 February, just after he presented solid annual results with profits at their highest level since 2010.

The year immediately following his departure was less successful. Credit Suisse suffered a decline of more than 20% in net profit, mainly due to higher provisions for credit losses, provisions for major litigation and a write-down of the York hedge fund.

Remaining lawsuits

“This case is now closed,” bank spokeswoman Simone Meier told the Swiss press, commenting on the out-of-court settlement. But neither the number of people involved in the settlement nor the amount of any compensation was disclosed, as the parties were bound by a confidentiality clause.

According to the Swiss newspaper NZZ am Sonntag, the settlement is intended to allow for the dropping of all criminal charges. These were brought by Khan – now co-chairman of competitor UBS’s wealth management business – against the bank and private investigators who allegedly followed him and his wife around Zurich.

The case is not entirely closed, though, as the proceedings initiated by Finma – the Swiss regulator in charge of financial market supervision – are still ongoing. Indeed, in September 2020, this authority opened an enforcement procedure against Credit Suisse with regards to the stalking case.

After an initial investigation in December 2019, which has now been completed, Finma is now looking at “indications of violations of supervisory law in the context of the bank’s shadowing and security activities, examining in particular how these activities were documented and monitored”. No further details have been provided, as the investigation may take “several months”.

Thiam’s new life

For Thiam, who has always denied having any knowledge of these alleged actions, the case also meant the end of his banking career in Switzerland. But for the man who is considered by some to be a “financial prodigy”, returning to the forefront of the economic scene was just inevitable.

The Franco-Ivorian financier has accepted several mandates, including a seat on the board of directors of the luxury group Kering, as well as an engagement with the champions of ‘inclusive capitalism’ in the Vatican.

He also got closer to the continent with a mandate as chairman of the board of Rwanda Finance Limited. Thiam is also part of the African Union task force dedicated to forging an economic response to Covid-19.

More recently he was consulted by French President Emmanuel Macron with regards to the setting up of the Summit on African economies which was held in Paris on 18 May. At the end of the same month, he was also a member of the delegation accompanying the French president on his historic trip to Rwanda and then to South Africa.

In early 2021, Thiam launched a special purpose acquisition company, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange. It aims to acquire companies that are active in the financial services sector.

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