Credit Suisse’s chairman was forced to defend the bank’s decision to oust chief executive Tidjane Thiam following an explosive spying scandal and a boardroom battle over his future.
Despite calls from top investors for Mr Thiam to stay in the role, the bank on Friday announced its decision to replace him with Swiss chief Thomas Gottstein. It has struggled to move on from a widening spying crisis that has gripped the Swiss banking world.
It is not clear if Mr Thiam will get a pay-off, although sources said he is likely to be treated as a “good leaver”. Up to CHF 12.7m (£10.1m) of Credit Suisse shares are currently coming his way under various bonus schemes. He is paid a base salary of CHF 3m.
Chairman Urs Rohner, who will stay on until April 2021, defended the board’s decision after Credit Suisse’s biggest shareholder, Harris Associates, reignited its calls for him to go.
Mr Rohner told Bloomberg TV he had faced “a deterioration in terms of trust, reputation and credibility among all our stakeholders”, adding that a second spying incident “made the situation worse” as it became clear “that there was more of a pattern”.
The scandal first erupted in September, when it emerged that Credit Suisse’s former wealth management boss Iqbal Khan had been chased through the streets of Zurich by detectives hired to track him after he quit to work for arch-rival UBS. The scandal led to the resignation of two top executives, including Thiam’s right-hand man Pierre-Olivier Bouee.
What the bank initially said was a rogue spying case widened as details emerged of additional instances of surveillance.
In December, it was forced to admit it spied on a second member of staff, saying its former HR chief Peter Goerke was followed by private eyes for several days in February. That prompted Swiss market regulator Finma to appoint an independent investigator to look into the crisis.
Then last week it was claimed that Mr Bouee had also ordered his head of security to infiltrate Greenpeace in 2017 after the activist group protested at the bank’s annual meeting.
Mr Thiam’s shock departure is likely to be met with outrage by key Credit Suisse investors who were vocal advocates of him remaining as chief executive.