Closing hours of Credit Suisse case today
A lawsuit pitting the former Prime Minister of Georgia against banking giant Credit Suisse’s Bermuda life insurance company and which has lasted five weeks is scheduled to finish today.
In its final hours yesterday, proceedings were dominated by a robust back-and-forth between Chief Justice Narinder Hargun, who is hearing the case remotely in Bermuda’s Supreme Court and Stephen Moverley Smith, QC, for the Bermuda-based insurer.
Credit Suisse Life (Bermuda) is concluding its defence against the lawsuit in which the Georgian plaintiff is suing them for $400 million.
As well as a politician, Bidzina Ivanishvili is a billionaire who made his money in Russia during the rush to capitalism that occurred in the aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Union, investing largely in banking and technology.
Mr Ivanishvili later — in 2011 and 2012 — transferred a large amount of his money into two unit-linked insurance policies, a structure which wraps an investment capability into an insurance policy.
But in 2015, he received a call on his accounts for $400 million to pay for an investment in a drug development company he says he did not authorise.
The billionaire blames his then Credit Suisse relationship manager, Patrice Lescaudron, for the call, and he is suing Credit Suisse Life (Bermuda) for the money.
Lescaudron marketed the policies to him and provided the documentation required to apply for them.
But after the multimillion-dollar call, it emerged that Lescaudron had been engaged in fraudulent behaviour for which he was jailed.
Mr Moverley Smith told the Chief Justice that Mr Ivanishvili was responsible for the investments for his policies, and the insurance company was not.
Mr Hargun countered that the plaintiff and his assistant are “quite clear in their evidence that they never called up and said they want you to do that or this”.
The lawyer for the insurance company said there may have been a general instruction given to Lescaudron to manage the investments for the policy accounts, but not under the guise of being a Credit Suisse Life investment manager.
“You have the possibility of him being paid a bonus and going to him individually,” he said, adding it was in relation to investment advice being given and all part of a general instruction.
He said there are witnesses who testified to this scenario.
Mr Moverley Smith added it was “highly unlikely” that individual instructions as to individual trades would have been made.
The Chief Justice asked the Credit Suisse Life lawyer about the complaint from the plaintiffs that the insurance policy investment account should have been managed on a discretionary basis, or on an execution-only basis.
He said if the mandate had been discretionary, then it was not managed by Credit Suisse’s internal investment department, and if the governing mandate was for execution only, the trade orders were not made by Mr Ivanishvili.
On the question of whether there was an obligation to monitor the accounts for fraud and the investments, “neither was spelt out”, Mr Moverley Smith said.
“We were concerned about that as no particularisation of the sort of monitoring that should have been carried out (was specified in Mr Ivanishvili’s pleading),” he said.
He added there is a “kitchen-sink approach in relation to this pleading — every possible cause of action is pleaded in every particular way.”
Later, the Chief Justice told Mr Moverley Smith: “You can’t say the knowledge of the bank cannot be the knowledge of CS Life.”
He added that the chief executive officer of the company had given evidence that if there was any wrongdoing, such as fraud in respect to the Credit Suisse Life policy accounts, he expected to be informed by the bank and once he had been informed, he said he would put it right.
“The bank is managing the assets. He was saying as manager of the assets he expected to be informed that had occurred,” he said.
Lawyer Steven Thompson tackled the question of the former Prime Minister’s damages claim.
He said that if the accounts had been governed by an execution-only mandate, where trades may only be executed for the account if the policy holder requests them, “ … if that is case they bump up against the problem … then what he put in on Day 1 should have stayed there,” adding, “ … if he never asked for any changes at all, then what he gets is what he puts in.”
The case is scheduled to conclude today.