Bankers were frustrated by rogue Credit Suisse manager
Credit Suisse executives had expressed frustration at a top-performing manager’s multiple compliance breaches, it was revealed in Bermuda’s Supreme Court.
Sascha Keusch, head of insurance management at Credit Suisse, was testifying remotely on Friday under cross-examination by Joe Smouha, QC, in a trial that is pitting one of the world’s richest men and former leader of the nation of Georgia against the global banking institution’s Bermuda-domiciled life insurance and investment company.
It was in 2015 that Bidzina Ivanishvili received a $400 million call for payment for shares in the drug development company Raptor Pharmaceuticals held in Credit Suisse accounts.
Mr Ivanishvili has vehemently denied authorising the purchase of the position in the stock that led to the call.
Along with other plaintiffs the oligarch — whose fortune was founded at the time of the fall of the Soviet Union on investments he made largely in the technology and banking sectors — brought a lawsuit against Credit Suisse Life (Bermuda) because the call involved life insurance policies within whose accounts at least some of the shares had been held.
He had a significant part of his multibillion-dollar fortune in two Credit Suisse Life (Bermuda) unit-linked policies’ investment portfolios, which were started in 2011 and 2012.
The unit-linked policies were tax-saving financial products that allowed for both insurance and investment, and from which the holder of the policy could also withdraw funds.
Mr Ivanishvili’s contact at Credit Suisse was his relationship manager, Patrice Lescaudron, who admitted breaches. The banker was imprisoned for his crimes, and last year he committed suicide.
Evidence given at the end of the second week of testimony before Chief Justice Narinder Hargun included e-mails between top banking executives regarding Lescaudron.
In one, a list of “unauthorised payments” is provided, and a bank executive comments in the e-mail chain: “Obviously this guy does not learn … he just does what he wants.”
In another, the writer tells colleagues that Lescaudron has “again made payments”. A further comment is: “Now, it is enough.”
The e-mail chain reveals that it was decided to write letters of caution to both Lescaudron and his line manager.
Reference is made to his status as a top performer for the bank. However, it is stated: “But we have risk from a governance point of view.”
Other evidence had the insurance management head at Credit Suisse insisting that the asset monitoring system at Credit Suisse Life (Bermuda) did not evaluate whether an investment was a good investment.
In cross-examination, Mr Smouha asked Mr Keusch about the authorisation for investments in the former Georgian leader’s insurance policy accounts. He responded: “In the case of the LPI [insurance] policies, Mr Ivanishvili directed the investments.”
The lawyer interjected: “But you can’t say that. You don’t know.”
Mr Keusch said that in “most cases” the clients instructed their relationship manager.
Mr Smouha countered: “You have absolutely no idea whether that happened or not.”
The insurance head replied: “It is my understanding that is how the contract was set up.”
The lawyer concluded: “That’s how it should have happened, but you have no idea if that is what happened.”
The case continues.