Bloomberg News

Zurich Insurance Probe Finds CFO Wasn’t Under Undue Pressure (1)

November 04, 2013

Zurich Insurance Headquarters

An embossed sign sits on a pillar outside Zurich Insurance Group AG's headquarters in Zurich. Photographer: Gianluca Colla/Bloomberg

Zurich Insurance Group AG (ZURN), Switzerland’s biggest insurer, said a probe into the suicide of Pierre Wauthier showed that no “undue pressure” was exerted on the chief financial officer before his suicide in August.

“The investigations found no indication that Pierre Wauthier was subjected to any undue or inappropriate pressure,” the Zurich-based insurer said in a statement today, citing the review overseen by the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority, or Finma, the country’s regulator.

Wauthier, 52, was found dead on Aug. 26 at his home near Zug, Switzerland, less than two weeks after the company missed analysts’ profit estimates and said it was “more challenging” to reach its three-year targets by the end of 2013. Josef Ackermann, 65, announced his resignation as chairman three days later after he was mentioned in a suicide note.

“We are still deeply saddened by the loss of Pierre Wauthier and we are unable to explain the motivation behind his tragic decision,” Chairman Tom de Swaan said in a statement.

Wauthier was the second senior Swiss executive in five weeks to take his life after Carsten Schloter, 49, chief executive officer of Swisscom AG (SCMN), Switzerland’s biggest phone company, was found dead at his home in July.

‘Too Ambitious’

Wauthier’s suicide sparked fresh doubts about Zurich Insurance’s financial health, prompting the insurer to commission an investigation into the relationship between its executives and the supervisory board. The report involved evaluating “numerous documents and correspondence,” while questioning individuals who worked with the CFO, the firm said.

A separate review showed that the “presentation of the financial figures was confirmed as appropriate,” Zurich said. Both probes were conducted under the direction of the Finma.

“Zurich Insurance is going to provide an update on its progress toward the, partially too ambitious, three-year targets at the investor day on Dec. 5,” said Dominik Studer, a Zurich-based analyst with J. Safra Sarasin who has a neutral rating on the stock. “We expect Zurich also to communicate a new set of goals for the 2014-2016 period.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Carolyn Bandel in Zurich at cbandel@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Frank Connelly at fconnelly@bloomberg.net


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