Sunday, 24 September 2023

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Swiss parliament starts Credit Suisse takeover probe

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND — Switzerland’s parliament on Thursday kicked off its probe into the government-orchestrated takeover of the stricken Credit Suisse bank by its larger rival UBS.

The parliamentary commission of inquiry aims to shed light on how Swiss authorities rapidly stitched together the merger of the wealthy Alpine country’s two biggest banks over a weekend in March.

Such parliamentary inquiries are rarely convened.

In a statement confirming the probe was underway, the commission said it had drawn up an initial inventory and laid out the four stages of its investigation.

“The main task is to examine the legality, expediency and effectiveness of the management of the competent authorities and bodies in the context of the Credit Suisse crisis and to draw up a report,” it said.

The commission said that after a preparation phase, it would develop the “concept of the investigation”, and then conduct its probe and hearings, before submitting a report to parliament.

The commission said it would be ploughing through confidential and sometimes secret documents, and would also go back over the years building up to the takeover.

“This obligation to maintain secrecy applies to all the people who take part in the sessions and also in the hearings,” commission chief Isabelle Chassot told AFP.

The commission is bound by “very strict rules” on this topic to “guarantee the smooth running of the investigation,”, she added.

It is composed of 14 lawmakers — seven from each house of parliament — with all the major parties represented. It has a budget of five million Swiss francs (US$5.8 million).

It is only the fifth parliamentary committee inquiry ever held in Switzerland and the first since 1995.

Like UBS, Credit Suisse was among 30 international banks deemed too big to fail due to their importance in the global banking architecture.

But the collapse of three US regional lenders in March left Credit Suisse looking like the weakest link in the chain and its share price plunged more than 30 per cent on 15 March.

The Swiss government, the central bank and the financial regulators then stepped in and strongarmed UBS into a US$3.25-billion takeover announced on 19 March before the markets reopened the following day.

The government feared Credit Suisse would have quickly defaulted and triggered a global banking crisis that would also have shredded Switzerland’s valuable reputation for sound banking.

The merger raised serious concerns in Switzerland around jobs, competition and the size of the resulting bank relative to the Swiss economy.


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