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Swiss Prosecutor Probing Novartis Board Members on Payout

March 12 (Bloomberg) -- A Swiss prosecutor is investigating Novartis AG’s former Chairman Daniel Vasella and other board members after two criminal complaints related to Vasella’s scrapped 72 million-Swiss franc ($75 million) payout were filed.

The Basel public prosecutor is probing whether Novartis executives can be charged, Peter Gill, the prosecutor’s spokesman, said in a telephone interview today.

Vasella’s “golden parachute” came to light after details were leaked to the press, leading to a public outcry in Switzerland and prompting Vasella to give up the money. Vasella and the board’s compensation committee failed to disclose the payments to shareholders, said Hans-Jacob Heitz, a lawyer who filed one of the complaints charging the executives with breach of trust and untruthful business information.

“They should have disclosed the payment in the last annual report at the latest,” Heitz said in a telephone interview today. Heitz didn’t say how many shareholders he represents. The other complaint was filed anonymously, according to Gill.

Ulrich Lehner, who may be named head of ThyssenKrupp AG’s supervisory board, was a member of key Novartis board committees involved in the payout, Heitz said.

The probe, an “absolutely” normal procedure, may take another couple of weeks, Gill said.

Spokesmen for Novartis and ThyssenKrupp declined to comment on the investigation when contacted by Bloomberg.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eva von Schaper in Munich at evonschaper@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Phil Serafino at pserafino@bloomberg.net

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