Banker to break silence on wife’s dollar deal

Swiss central bank chief Philipp Hildebrand is due to break his silence later on Thursday over his wife's controversial dollar purchase that has sparked a growing scandal and speculation over insider trading.

Hildebrand, 48, will give a public statement at the Swiss National Bank in Zurich on the affair which has already seen two separate probes and a banking industry worker sacked.

It emerged last month that his wife Kashya Hildebrand profited after buying $504,000 in August, just weeks before an intervention by the SNB to halt the rise of the franc — a move that saw the dollar rise significantly against the Swiss currency.

The purchase, which investigators said appeared to have been carried out without her husband’s knowledge, was deemed “sensitive” by auditors who nevertheless cleared the couple of any wrongdoing.

The report by PricewaterCoopers listed a number of other currency trades which on Thursday led one Swiss newspaper, the weekly Weltwoche, to dub him “speculator Hildebrand.”

The affair has raised questions over current central banking regulations and ethics.

The daily Berner Zeitung urged Hildebrand to quit, saying the SNB needed to have “absolute integrity,” while the Basler Zeitung wrote that his stepping down was “inevitable”.

Le Temps said SNB regulations, including those regarding currency transactions, were “clearly more lax” than those of the European Central Bank and the US Federal Reserve.
The Swiss government, whose own Federal Audit Office carried out a dual investigation exonerating the couple, is standing by the bank chief.
“The audit revealed no indication of any transactions in which inside knowledge of confidential facts had been used or which were contrary to the rules of the SNB,” the Federal Council said in a statement.
Hildebrand joined the SNB board in 2003 after a spell as chief investment officer at the Vontobel Group in Zurich and Union Bancaire Privee in Geneva.

His appointment as chairman in January 2010 was largely well received bythe media and commentators.

Hildebrand’s credentials also saw him selected as vice chairman of the Financial Stability Board last year and he is a member of the board of directors of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) in Basel.
The banker has yet to comment personally on the currency trading speculation but his wife, a former hedge fund worker who now runs an art gallery, defended herself earlier this week.
In a written statement to the SF Swiss television, she said that she bought the dollars due to the fact that they had “hit a very low level and become ridiculously cheap.”
The SNB on September 6th imposed a bottom limit for the franc against the euro to stop the currency soaring and biting into Swiss exporters’ earnings.
The action saw both the euro and the dollar rise against the franc.
The bank used by the Hildebrands, Banque Sarasin in Basel, this week dismissed an employee who admitted illegally transmitting transaction details to a lawyer close to the far-right Swiss People’s Party whose chief is a Hildebrand critic.
Le Temps newspaper reported earlier this week that the party’s figurehead Christoph Blocher went to then-president Micheline Calmy-Rey with the extracts, sparking the affair.
Blocher, a critic of SNB policy under Hildebrand, has so far remained silent on the controversy.

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Swiss National Bank hit by new spray paint attack

A woman activist spray painted a message on a billboard outside Switzerland’s central bank on Friday in an echo of a similar protest last year in which an 86-year-old woman was arrested.

Swiss National Bank hit by new spray paint attack
File photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

The incident occurred as the Swiss National Bank (SNB) held its annual general meeting in Bern, the Blick newspaper reported.

An unidentified woman sprayed the message 'please remember why we founded you' on the billboard in red paint.

According to the paper, the protestor was campaigning in support of the campaign for monetary reform, which goes to a nationwide vote in June.

READ ALSO: Why the Swiss National Bank needs more gold

Known as the Vollgeld Initiative in German and the Initiative Monnaie Pleine in French, the initiative calls an end to traditional bank lending and for the SNB to be the only financial institution able to issue money. 

The SNB opposes the sovereign money initiative.

With the help of other activists, the spray painter removed the words a short time later.

Almost exactly one year ago an 86-year-old woman was arrested after spraying an anti-war message outside the SNB in a case that drew worldwide attention.

READ ALSO: Woman, 86, arrested for spraying anti-war graffiti on Swiss National Bank

The peace activist spray-painted ‘Money for weapons kills' on the billboard. 

She was campaigning on behalf of the Group for a Switzerland without an Army (GSsA) which had launched a popular initiative to ban Swiss financing of any company that produces arms. 

If it gathers the required 100,000 signatures by October 2018, the issue will go to a national referendum.