Fired CEO of Swedbank Is Cleared of Insider Trading Chargesby and
Lawyer says case dropped after 1 1/2-hour police interview
Swedbank says it `welcomes' development; can now move on
Michael Wolf, who was ousted from the helm of Sweden’s biggest mortgage lender on Feb. 9, had all charges against him dropped after a 1 1/2 hour interview with police last week, according to his lawyer, Leif Gustafson.
“No crime was committed,” Gustafson said by phone on Wednesday. Wolf “is of course very happy and relieved that the prosecution could see this so fast.”
“In my view, it was an expected decision,” he said. “There was no substance at all in these suspicions.”
Shares in Swedbank traded 1.3 percent lower as of 10:06 a.m. in Stockholm, after opening 1.9 percent down. The stock has lost about 10 percent this year.
Swedbank, where Chairman Anders Sundstroem wasn’t re-elected last month following Wolf’s ouster, said it “welcomes” news of the former CEO’s innocence. “Now we can put this behind us,” Cecilia Hernqvist, the bank’s head of communications, said in an e-mailed reply to questions.
Wolf’s dismissal in February stunned markets and triggered a sharp decline in Swedbank’s share price at the time. Though the bank initially said the decision to remove its CEO was based on a simple need for change, Sundstroem a few days later convened a press conference to reveal what he described as possible insider trading by Wolf.
Swedbank named its head of Swedish banking, Birgitte Bonnesen, as acting CEO. Wolf’s departure was followed by the resignation of Chief Financial Officer Goeran Bronner in March.
Sweden’s economic crime unit said it closed the case, which related to transactions conducted in 2013. The trades didn’t involve Swedbank shares, it said. The unit started its probe following a request from the bank that went via the financial regulator. Based on interviews with several people and other data that formed part of a preliminary investigation, it wasn’t possible to prove that Wolf conducted any trades based on inside information, the unit said.
“There is a much lower threshold for initiating an investigation compared with what is required to bring a prosecution,” the Swedish Economic Crime Authority said in a statement.