Credit Suisse banker dispute shows challenge of CEO's new strategy

Thu Aug 18, 2016 5:20pm EDT
 
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By Olivia Oran

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Credit Suisse Group AG (CSGN.S: Quote) is accusing a group of five investment bankers who left for Jefferies Group LLC in May of stealing confidential information and trying to coax former colleagues to join them.

The dispute, which has not been previously reported, offers insight into how the Swiss bank's push into wealth management under Chief Executive Officer Tidjane Thiam may be prompting the departure of bankers that Wall Street businesses want to retain.

Credit Suisse said in a petition in New York State Supreme Court in June that the bankers printed out and had access to proprietary information that could be used for the benefit of Jefferies. Documents in the court case also accused the bankers of conspiring to attract members of Credit Suisse's technology banking team to Jefferies.

The Swiss bank is asking the court to block the five, all former managing directors, from using proprietary information it said they obtained before quitting. Credit Suisse did not name Jefferies Group as a defendant in the case.

The former employees, Steve West, Bill Brady, John Metz, Cameron Lester and Cully Davis, had worked in Credit Suisse's technology, media and telecom investment banking group, handling high-profile deals such as Alibaba Group Holding Ltd's (BABA.N: Quote) $25 billion IPO. They denied Credit Suisse's allegations.

Lawyers for the bankers and Jefferies could not immediately be reached to comment. Credit Suisse declined to comment.

The departure of the five to Jefferies raised eyebrows on Wall Street. Several of them had worked at Credit Suisse for over a decade. But in court filings, their lawyers argued they had little choice but to leave Credit Suisse to foster their careers, since the Swiss bank was moving away from "investment banking."

The lawyers cited news articles with headlines to that effect and comments from Thiam, who became CEO in June 2015, about the bank's shift toward wealth management and away from capital-intensive businesses such as bond trading.   Continued...

 
CEO Tidjane Thiam (R) of Swiss bank Credit Suisse awaits a news conference to present the bank's halfyear results in Zurich, Switzerland July 28, 2016.   REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann