The headquarters of Julius Baer in Zurich, Switzerland. Picture: REUTERS/ARND WIEGMANN
The headquarters of Julius Baer in Zurich, Switzerland. Picture: REUTERS/ARND WIEGMANN

Zurich — Former Julius Baer Group CEO Boris Collardi was reprimanded by Switzerland’s financial regulator over a money-laundering probe that has cast a shadow over his move to Geneva private bank Pictet & Cie.

Collardi will not face further penalties in the case, related to alleged corruption in Venezuela, according to a statement sent on Thursday. Separately, Swiss watchdog Finma said it is starting enforcement proceedings against one unidentified Baer manager. The actions come almost a year after the regulator said the bank fell significantly short in combating money laundering in its Latin American business between 2009 and early 2018.

Collardi said in a statement that he accepts the regulator’s reprimand and faces no further actions. “This decision now brings this matter to a close for me,” he said. Bernhard Hodler, his immediate successor at Julius Baer, “takes note” of a reprimand against him and has no further comment, a spokesperson said.

Collardi led a period of breakneck expansion during his tenure as Baer CEO through nearly a dozen acquisitions and joint ventures. That later sparked investigations into how well the bank vetted its clients and monitored their business activities.

Zurich prosecutors will review the Finma report as part of a continuing preliminary probe, a spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office said by e-mail on Thursday. In June, prosecutors said they were following up a tip about alleged wrongdoing by Collardi and other former Baer managers to determine whether there are grounds to open a criminal proceeding.

Collardi joined Pictet in 2018 where he is co-head of the wealth management business. After his surprise exit from Baer, he became the first outsider in almost two decades to join as a partner. Employing a tried and tested growth formula, he cast a wide net for personnel at Pictet, recruiting bankers from Miami to Hong Kong and vowing to become one of the top 10 private banks in Asia.

A Pictet spokesperson said on Thursday that the bank takes note of the Finma decision and that it stands behind Collardi and has “full confidence” in his work at the company.

The investigations have troubled some at Pictet. Partners have discussed potential damage to the firm’s brand related to Collardi’s time at Baer, people with knowledge of the matter told Bloomberg in March, shortly after Finma began its investigation.

Finma has been investigating high-ranking individuals at Baer, including Collardi and Hodler. The regulator said on Thursday that it had ended a second enforcement proceeding against one person after they agreed not to accept a managerial position at another supervised financial institution in the future.

All the individuals associated with the regulator’s actions are no longer with Julius Baer, according to a spokesperson for the bank.

Philipp Rickenbacher, who took over as CEO of Julius Baer in 2019, has reorganised divisions and management and cut jobs as he seeks to focus on improving profitability at the expense of all-out asset growth. Hodler had also sought to rein in the expansion that took place under Collardi.

The regulator’s primary tools for sanctions against individuals include a ban from the financial services industry for as long as five years, but the regulator can escape the ban if individuals decide to leave the sector for good.

Finma said it gave two people reprimands in writing, without identifying them. The regulator will also open proceedings against five unnamed Swiss lenders after reviewing 30 banks in connection with corruption at Venezuelan state-owned oil company PDVSA.

Bloomberg

Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments?
Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.