Friday 21 July 2017

Defiant boss of Swiss central bank refuses to quit over currency row

Klaus Wille and Jennifer Freedman

Philipp Hildebrand refused to resign as Swiss National Bank (SNB) president and expressed regret that he didn't curb his wife's currency trading as he rounded on political opponents for trying to undermine his position and violating the culture of Swiss banking.

Mr Hildebrand (48), said he acted appropriately in his role, speaking publicly for the first time about a currency transaction that led to calls for his resignation.

"I acted not only according to the rules, but also in an appropriate manner," he said at a briefing in Zurich yesterday.

He said he realised that people have "questions" and that he shouldn't have let his wife make the foreign-exchange trade.

While the SNB agreed to publish rules on personal ethics on Wednesday and an independent probe cleared the central bank head of wrongdoing, a dollar purchase of over $504,000 (€394,000) by his wife in August, three weeks before the SNB imposed a franc cap, was found to be "sensitive". Details of the transaction were leaked by an employee of Bank Sarasin.

Secrecy

"I regret that some circles, who for years have regarded themselves as vehement champions of Switzerland's bank secrecy, now have no qualms about serious violations of that bank secrecy to pursue their political aims," Mr Hildebrand said. "They are damaging the interests of Switzerland."

Swiss magazine 'Weltwoche' reported on Wednesday that bank statements showed Mr Hildebrand himself sold 400,000 francs (€328,000) for dollars on August 15. Mr Hildebrand said yesterday his spouse, Kashya, made the transaction without his knowledge. He also said he gave the profit to charity before Christmas.

He took over as president of SNB in January 2010.

As head, Mr Hildebrand helped toughen financial regulation. He also lowered borrowing costs to zero and, in September, introduced the first currency ceiling since the 1970s to help protect the economy after the franc reached a record against the euro.

Irish Independent

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