Credit Suisse foresees $4.7b charge over hedge fund default

Reuters
Credit Suisse said it will take a 4.4 billion Swiss franc hit from dealings with Archegos Capital Management.
Reuters

Credit Suisse said on Tuesday it will take a 4.4 billion Swiss franc (US$4.7 billion) hit from dealings with Archegos Capital Management, prompting it to overhaul the leadership of its investment bank and risk divisions.

The scandal-hit bank now expects to post a loss for the first quarter of around 900 million Swiss francs. It is also suspending its share buyback plans and cutting its dividend by two thirds.

Switzerland’s No. 2 bank, which has dumped over US$2 billion worth of stock to end exposure to the New York investment fund run by former Tiger Asia manager Bill Hwang, said Chief Risk and Compliance Officer Lara Warner and investment banking head Brian Chin were stepping down following the losses.

The Archegos hit eclipses the bank’s 2.7 billion Swiss franc net profit last year, with questions over how its exposure to Hwang became so big remaining unanswered.

“The significant loss in our Prime Services business relating to the failure of a US-based hedge fund is unacceptable,” Credit Suisse Chief Executive Thomas Gottstein said in a statement. “Serious lessons will be learned.”

It is the second major scandal for Credit Suisse in just over a month after the collapse of Greensill Capital, with the bank’s shares down by a quarter since March 1.

The bank’s board has launched an investigation into the Archegos losses and also begun a probe into its US$10 billion supply chain funds which invested in bonds issued by Greensill.

Proposed bonuses for executive board members have been scrapped and outgoing chairman Urs Rohner, who has presided over the bank since 2011, will forgo his 1.5 million Swiss franc chair fee for the year. Incoming chairman António Horta-Osório, currently CEO of Britain’s Lloyds Bank, is being kept apprised of the investigations, which are being led by a “very senior member” of the board, a source familiar with the matter said.

Credit Suisse shares were up 1.26 percent in the afternoon as the bank said the Archegos loss had overshadowed a “strong” start to the year by its investment bank and wealth management units.

The bank said Christian Meissner, who ran investment banking at Bank of America before joining Credit Suisse last year, would be appointed chief of the investment bank from May 1. Joachim Oechslin will resume on an interim basis the role of chief risk officer, which he held previously until February 2019, while Thomas Grotzer will become interim global head of compliance.

“At least, in our opinion, personnel consequences have now been taken. The main damage, however, has been inflicted on shareholders, who have to make do with a lower dividend and a suspended share buyback,” said Michael Kunz, an analyst at Zuercher Kantonalbank.

“In view of the bank’s vulnerability to risk ... it does not seem appropriate to us to recommend bets on the securities of CS Group.”

Warner and Chin are paying the price for a year in which Credit JPMorgan Chase & Co analysts estimate that combined losses from the Archegos and Greensill scandals could add up to US$7.5 billion.

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