Based on data stolen from the Zurich branch of Sarasin by a staffer in its IT department, the paper broke the story of suspect foreign exchange transactions ostensibly made by Hildebrand. Zurichs prosecuting attorney has already opened a case against the staffer for the theft.
A separate issue is the damage to the reputations of both Mr. Hildebrand and Bank Sarasin. During a press conference, Hildebrand stated that he would examine all options to see if and against whom it would be necessary to take legal steps. Media lawyer Andreas Meili said that if the weekly paper were shown to have presented Hildebrand in a false light, or as having unnecessarily damaged the former SNB presidents reputation and honor, it would have to pay damages and make amends that could include part of the papers profits.
With reference to the forex transactions, Weltwoche called Hildebrand a crook and a liar, and stated that he had abused insider knowledge and behaved immorally. Meili said that Hildebrand also had the option of bringing a case against the journalist, Urs Paul Engeler, who covered the scandal. Weltwoches lawyer, board president Martin Wagner, told Tages-Anzeiger that the paper had no legal issues in relation to our coverage of the Hillenbrand case on the table at present.
Bank Sarasin released a communiqué stating that it reserved the right to sue for damages in conjunction with the faulty reporting of a Swiss weekly paper. Legally, it has up to one years time to do this. Lawyer Meili explains that such statements are issued to put pressure on and give additional clout to the threat of legal action. Weltwoches Martin Wagner was unimpressed saying the statement was meaningless, adding: I think the banking institution in question has enough to do to clean up its internal mess.
According to Meili, one option the bank would have would to bring a suit claiming its reputation had been so damaged by the coverage that its competitivity in the banking sector had suffered. Violations of the law of unfair competition can not only be pursued in civil but also in criminal suits. Under that scenario journalist Engeler could be fined up to 100,000 Swiss francs ($105,000) or be given a prison sentence assuming, says Meili, it could be proven that he had acted intentionally.
Weltwoches Wagner remained firm. Everybody concerned in this affair has enough homework without getting caught up in legal procedures," he said.
Read the full story in German by Bernhard Fischer
Photo - krusenstern
*Newsbites are digest items, not direct translations