The Swiss National Bank’s supervisory board said a KPMG probe into transactions showed all board members and their deputies acted in line with internal rules in the three years through 2011.
“No activities were identified which might suggest that financial transactions by members of the enlarged governing board were in breach of guidelines,” the board said in an e-mailed statement today. While interim Chairman Thomas Jordan and deputies Thomas Moser and Dewet Moser were fully cleared, KPMG conducted a “detailed analysis” into two transactions by board member Jean-Pierre Danthine and deputy Thomas Wiedmer. The Bank Council said both “cannot be reproached for any misconduct” and didn’t “take advantage of privileged” information.
Today’s outcome paves the way for Jordan to take the helm at the SNB after Philipp Hildebrand quit as chairman on Jan. 9 over currency purchases by his wife. The 49-year old economist has already signaled he’s willing to accept the post and Bank Council President Hansueli Raggenbass said the “conditions are in place” for the government to take a decision.
“Theoretically, it would be of advantage to elect a new SNB president soon,” Raggenbass said a briefing in Zurich today. It would “create more stability at the SNB.”
The franc strengthened after the report, trading as high 1.2048 versus the euro. It was at 1.2052 at 4:53 p.m. in Zurich. Against the dollar, it traded at 91.91 centimes.
The Bank Council in January ordered the KPMG investigation into all transactions. While Hildebrand, 48, had initially been cleared of any wrongdoing, the furor over his wife’s purchase of $504,000 in August -- considered “sensitive” in the probe -- prompted the SNB to publish more details and forced him to step down, just three weeks after the results were published.
KPMG investigated all transactions of the enlarged board and their families, with the exception of Hildebrand’s wife Kashya. While Hildebrand had been forced to disclose details of private transactions in January, the SNB said today the latest six individual reports “contain material protected by rights of privacy and therefore cannot be made public.”
Danthine, Wiedmer and Hildebrand each had two transactions reviewed in more detail. Hildebrand sold 700,000 euros ($917,350) and purchased 1.07 million francs ($1.16 million) on March 17, 2009, followed by a sale of 156,465 euros on June 18 of the same year. Both transactions were carried out at a time when the SNB was trying to stem franc gains through purchases of foreign currencies.
“KPMG has found no indication with regard to these transactions which would suggest that there was any conflict of interest, or that confidential information was exploited to derive a personal advantage,” the statement said.
Danthine, who joined the SNB in 2010, on February of the same year sold 197,674 euros and purchased 289,000 francs to pay into the central bank’s pension fund. He also bought 178,794 francs for 126,000 euros on May 20, 2010 after his investment adviser suggested that he reduce his euro holdings.
The SNB in mid-June 2010 ended 15 months of efforts to weaken the franc through purchases of foreign currencies. On Sept. 6, 2011, it introduced a currency cap after the franc surged to near-parity against the euro.
Wiedmer on March 8 purchased shares for 4,162.95 francs, which he sold on April 6 of the same year for 3,772.30 francs, violating the central bank’s six-month holding period for so-called passive management. On Sept. 9, 2011, he purchased shares for 1,769.45 francs, which he sold on Nov. 11 for 644.50 francs. Wiedmer “was of the opinion that the minimum holding period did not apply to loss minimization,” the SNB said.
“The Bank Council has taken note of the results of the investigation and has looked into them in detail,” it said. “It continues to have full confidence in Danthine and Wiedmer, as well as the other members of the enlarged governing board.”
The central bank, which proposed to toughen internal rules after Hildebrand quit, said today that “work is almost complete and the new regulations will be published shortly.” It also said that the Bank Council will present a proposal for the appointment of a new board member to the government “within the next few weeks.”
The turmoil at the helm of the SNB comes amid the central bank’s efforts to defend its franc ceiling of 1.20 versus the euro to protect the economy. Jordan on Feb. 28 said that the SNB had been able “to correct the franc’s overvaluation” and that it “will continue to do that with all determination.”
The SNB bank will present its 2011 earnings tomorrow and hold its next monetary policy assessment on March 15.