Review of Zurich finance chief's suicide clears Ackermann

Mon Nov 4, 2013 9:41am EST
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By Alice Baghdjian and Paul Arnold

ZURICH (Reuters) - Zurich Insurance ZURN.VX finance chief Pierre Wauthier did not come under "undue pressure" before his suicide, the firm said on Monday, citing results of an investigation into his death that it hopes will wrap up the scandal before earnings next week.

The findings of the investigation, initiated and overseen by Switzerland's financial market watchdog, appear to lift any blame from Zurich's high-profile former chairman Josef Ackermann, a previous boss of Deutsche Bank DBKGn.DE.

Zurich, which has championed a "boring" image in recent years, was shaken by the death of 53-year-old chief financial officer (CFO) Wauthier in August and the subsequent resignation of Ackermann. Wauthier blamed Ackermann in a suicide note for putting him under pressure, a source said.

Switzerland's FINMA watchdog found "no indication that the CFO was subjected to any undue or inappropriate pressure" by the chairman or any other decision maker, Zurich said on Monday.

The results confirm a report by Reuters on Friday.

A separate review into the presentation of Zurich's financial figures, begun by the Swiss regulator and conducted by auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers - Zurich's regular auditor - found their presentation to be "appropriate", the firm added.

"We are still deeply saddened by the loss of Pierre Wauthier and we are unable to explain the motivation behind his tragic decision," Zurich's chairman Tom de Swaan said in a statement.

The Swiss insurer has been keen to put an end to speculation about the suicide and the presentation of financial figures before its third-quarter results on November 14 and an update for investors on December 5 on targets the firm will likely miss, though analysts said the findings of the reports were largely expected.   Continued...

Former Deutsche Bank Chief Executive Josef Ackermann attends the presentation of his biography written by Stefan Baron, in Berlin, September 12, 2013. REUTERS/Thomas Peter