Swiss Central Bank Chief In Hot Water Over Wife's Trades

Jan 5 2012 | 2:09pm ET

The head of Switzerland's national bank said today that he would not resign over a controversial currency trade made by his wife, a former hedge fund trader.

Philipp Hildebrand, president of the Swiss National Bank, said that he "acted not only according to the rules, but also in an appropriate matter." He did acknowledge that he should not have allowed his wife, Kashya, to make the trade, even though he said he did not learn about it until after the fact.

Swiss media reports have accused Hildebrand of using insider information for his own profit.

Kashya Hildebrand's purchase of US$504,000 with Swiss francs came in August, three weeks before the SNB took strong action to weaken the franc, leading to a 17% increase in the value of the dollar. Word of the trade was leaked by an employee, since fired and facing a criminal investigation, of Bank Sarasin in December.

Yesterday came further word that Hildebrand himself bought US$400,000 with francs in August. Hildebrand said that trade, too, was made by his wife without his knowledge, although it was done in his name.

"My wife has a strong personality, let's put it that way," Hildebrand said. "She'd expressed the thoughts that the dollar was much too low. I only blame myself that I didn't reverse the transaction."

Kashya Hildebrand, who now runs an art gallery, has said she made the trade because the dollar was "at a record low and almost ridiculously cheap." What's more, as much as 80% of the transactions at her gallery are made in dollars.

Hildebrand, at his press conference today, blasted his political opponents, "who for years have regarded themselves as vehement champion's of Switzerland's bank secrecy," for having "no qualms about serious violations of that bank secrecy, in order to pursue their political aims. They are damaging the interests of Switzerland."

The former Bank Sarasin employee leaked Kashya Hildebrand's trades to a member of the Swiss People's Party, which opposes Hildebrand.

Hildebrand said he has given the profit from his trade to charity.


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