Credit Suisse chairman quits bank amid board probe

Credit Suisse Group AG

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President António Horta-Osório is leaving the World Bank following a board investigation into his travels and personal conduct, according to people familiar with the bank.

Credit Suisse said on Sunday evening that Mr Horta-Osório had resigned following an investigation commissioned by the board. People said the inquest looked at his conduct, including travel that breached government rules related to Covid and his personal use of business jets. He joined the board of Credit Suisse less than a year ago.

Credit Suisse said board member Axel Lehmann has been appointed to take on the role of chairman, effective immediately. Lehmann, a former head of UBS Group AG, joined Credit Suisse’s board at the end of 2021 and chairs its risk committee.

Credit Suisse spokespersons did not respond to requests for comment. Mr. Horta-Osório could not be reached on Sunday evening and his lawyer did not respond.

“I regret that a number of my personal actions have caused hardship for the bank and compromised my ability to represent the bank internally and externally,” Horta-Osório said in a Credit Suisse press release. “So I believe my resignation is in the interest of the bank and its stakeholders at this crucial time.”

The departure of Mr. Horta-Osório would hit Credit Suisse at a vulnerable time. He was appointed to help clean up the Swiss bank’s problems. Credit Suisse is still emerging from the turmoil after losing $5.5 billion in the implosion of hedge fund Archegos Capital Management and becoming entangled in now-insolvent financial firm Greensill Capital.

Mr Horta-Osório has found himself caught up in his own troubles in recent weeks, breaking quarantine rules by flying from London to Zurich on November 28. The trip came a day after Switzerland imposed a 10-day quarantine on arrivals from the UK and several other countries because of the Omicron push. He said at the time that the breach was unintentional and had been reported to health authorities and Swiss financial regulator Finma. He apologized and said it wouldn’t happen again.

After the quarantine breach, Credit Suisse said compliance with laws and guidelines was a priority for the bank and the president. A Finma spokesperson said at the time that it was in contact with Credit Suisse about the matter.

Reuters reported in December that the bank was investigating Mr Horta-Osório’s trip and that he had attended the Wimbledon tennis final in the UK in July, when the country’s Covid-19 rules required him to be in quarantine. The Swiss press separately reported that the president used business jets in the fall to vacation in the Maldives. At the time, Credit Suisse said it had rules regarding the use of private jets for the president and other executives.

The Portuguese native established a reputation as one of Europe’s most successful bankers after turning Lloyds Banking Group PLC, where he was CEO for a decade. At Credit Suisse, he had said he would reassess the bank’s risk taking; review its culture, compensation and incentives; and emphasizing personal responsibility and staff accountability.

“We need to foster a culture that reinforces the importance of risk management,” Horta-Osório said of Credit Suisse shortly after becoming chairman in April 2021.

Credit Suisse will formally nominate Mr. Lehmann as chairman at its shareholders’ meeting on April 29. Release.

Write to Emily Glazer at [email protected] and Margot Patrick at [email protected]

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