Swiss Banker Expresses Regret over Dollar Trades ; but He Says He Violated No Laws or Rules and Does Not Intend to Resign
Ewing, Jack, International Herald Tribune
Philipp M. Hildebrand, head of the Swiss central bank, said he regretted the trades that have clouded his reputation but maintained he broke no laws or regulations.
Philipp M. Hildebrand, head of the Swiss central bank, said Thursday that he regretted currency trades that have threatened his international reputation as an advocate for tougher bank regulation, but he maintained that he had violated no laws or regulations and would not resign.
"I am not aware of any legal transgressions," Mr. Hildebrand said at a news conference in Zurich. "But I understand that the public also poses the moral question."
The 48-year-old head of the Swiss National Bank, who played a high-profile role in formulation of new global standards designed to limit risky behavior by bankers, was by turns contrite and angry during the one-hour appearance, which was broadcast on the Internet.
While expressing regrets, Mr. Hildebrand portrayed the accusation of insider trading as the work of his enemies on the Swiss political right, and said he was considering taking legal action against those who used information stolen from a personal account at Bank Sarasin, a Swiss private bank.
"The personal attacks against me have reached the point where I had to defend myself," Mr. Hildebrand said.
An information technology worker at Bank Sarasin faces a criminal investigation for allegedly giving the information to the Swiss People's Party, whose most visible leader, Christoph Blocher, has been a bitter critic of Mr. Hildebrand.
Appearing on a Swiss television program Thursday, Mr. Blocher confirmed that he had passed on information about the transactions and called Mr. Hildebrand "no longer tolerable."
But Mr. Hildebrand also faces a storm of criticism across the political spectrum, with members of Parliament and commentators questioning whether he has damaged the credibility of the Swiss National Bank and Switzerland's image abroad. Mr. Hildebrand is vice president of the Financial Stability Board, a group of central bankers and regulators that plays a leading role in recommending bank regulations to the leaders of the Group of 20 nations.
Mr. Hildebrand vowed to "continue to apply all of my energy to my job as president" of the Swiss central bank.
During the news conference, Mr. Hildebrand denied a key assertion by Weltwoche, a right-leaning Swiss magazine that first reported many details of the accusations. The publication said it had evidence that Mr. Hildebrand, and not his wife, had personally made a large investment in dollars just days before the Swiss National Bank stepped up its intervention in currency markets. The central bank was then engaged in an intense effort to stem the rise of the franc and protect Swiss exporters.
Mr. Hildebrand said that his wife, Kashya Hildebrand, had legal power to use the account and bought dollars because she considered them very cheap. He described her as an economist and "strong personality" who takes a keen interest in finance. …