(Bloomberg) -- Credit Suisse Group AG faces the threat of a possible probe and disciplinary action over how top managers ran the bank in the lead-up to its collapse and takeover by UBS Group AG, Switzerland’s banking regulator told NZZ am Sonntag.
“CS had a cultural problem that translated into a lack of accountability,” Finma President Marlene Amstad told the Sunday newspaper. “Often it was not clear who was responsible for what. This favored a negligent handling of risks.”
Whether to start fresh proceedings remains an “open question,” she said, adding, “we’re not a law enforcement agency, but we’re exploring options.”
A spokesman for Credit Suisse declined to comment.
The government-brokered purchase of Credit Suisse by UBS last weekend has been widely criticized by both politicians and ordinary citizens in Switzerland. Finma, in particular, has come under scrutiny for whether it should’ve done more to prevent Credit Suisse’s collapse.
Amstad refuted the suggestion that Finma didn’t intervene early or aggressively enough to tackle Credit Suisse’s problems, pointing to the six enforcement proceedings against the bank in recent years.
“We intervened earlier, and very intensively, where there were breaches of supervisory law. But especially when we act harshly, it usually doesn’t become public,” she told NZZ. “Imagine if it had become known that we were already working on CS’s restructuring order in November or that we had asked CS to prepare alternative solutions for the case that had just occurred.”
Echoing comments from Switzerland’s finance minister Saturday, Amstad said the idea of nationalizing the bank was dismissed considering there are “few good examples” of that option to point to and it would’ve meant the government assuming all of Credit Suisse’s balance sheet risks.
Read more: Credit Suisse Wouldn’t Have Lasted Another Day, Minister Says
Likewise, Amstad also pushed back against the notion that undue pressure was put on Switzerland, saying, “the Swiss authorities decided for themselves which solution was best.”
To address concerns about the merged bank being too big to fail, Amstad said in the future, UBS will face “progressively higher capital and liquidity requirements.”
Switzerland has been criticized for failing to give Finma the proper tools with which it can punish bankers and dissuade bad behavior. Amstad said she welcomes discussion about giving the regulator new powers such as the ability to fine individuals or banks.
“When it comes to the responsibility of individual decision-makers, however, it is evident that there are gaps that need to be closed,” Amstad said.
‘Senior Managers’ Regime’
Finma CEO Urban Angehrn gave a separate interview to Swiss weekly SonntagsZeitung, echoing points made by both Amstad and Finance Minister Karin Keller-Sutter. Like Amstad, he stressed that Finma lacks a “Senior Managers’ Regime” that would allow the watchdog to more quickly identify responsibility or place blame, which means that “afterwards, there are no more excuses.”
He defended Finma’s record in corralling Credit Suisse.
“We’ve had quite an effect over the years. We pushed the limits of our mission,” he said. “But, as the federal councilor said: You cannot regulate away a crisis of confidence.”
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