Investors sue Swiss regulator

Move seeks redressal for clients deprived of property rights

Reuters April 22, 2023
The logo of Swiss bank Credit Suisse is seen in front of a branch office in Bern, Switzerland November 29, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS


Investors representing more than 4.5 billion Swiss francs ($5 billion) of Credit Suisse bonds have sued the Swiss regulator over its decision to wipe out their investments during last month’s emergency government-orchestrated takeover.

Law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart and Sullivan, which is representing the bondholders, said on Friday the move was the first in a series of steps to seek redress for clients it said had been unlawfully deprived of their property rights during Credit Suisse’s takeover by bigger rival UBS.

It is the first major lawsuit in the public domain to be filed over the Swiss decision to wipe out around $18 billion of Credit Suisse’s Additional Tier 1 (AT1) debt during the 3 billion Swiss franc all-share rescue deal last month, which stunned markets and alerted litigators.

The appeal against FINMA, the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority that ordered the write-down, was filed on April 18 in the Federal Administrative Court in St Gallen, north east Switzerland.

“FINMA’s decision undermines international confidence in the legal certainty and reliability of the Swiss financial center,” said Thomas Werlen, Quinn Emanuel’s Swiss managing partner.

“We are committed to rectifying this decision, which is not only in the interests of our clients but will also strengthen Switzerland’s position as a key jurisdiction in the global financial system.”

Peter Viktor Kunz, a professor of business law at the University of Bern, said it would be a disaster for FINMA and Switzerland’s reputation as a financial centre if the regulator lost the case. “The reputation of the country as a stable place for investors is on the line,” he said.

FINMA said last month that its decision to impose steep losses on some bondholders was legally watertight because the bond prospectuses and emergency government legislation allowed for a total write down in a “viability event”.

Engineered in the wake of the global financial crisis, AT1 bonds were designed to ensure investors, not taxpayers, carry the burden of risk if a bank runs into trouble.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 22nd, 2023.

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