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Switzerland

Swiss Bank Scandal Fallout: Paper That Broke The Story Could Get Sued

Lawyers for both Philipp Hildebrand, the recently resigned president of the Swiss National Bank, and for Bank Sarasin, a Swiss private bank, may take separate actions on privacy grounds against the Zurich weekly Weltwoche that broke the story that led to

Roger Köppel, Weltwoche's editor-in-chief (krusenstern)
Roger Köppel, Weltwoche's editor-in-chief (krusenstern)

*NEWSBITES

ZURICH - Lawyers for Philipp Hildebrand, who recently resigned as president of the Swiss National Bank, may take legal action against the Swiss publication Weltwoche for violating privacy laws. Lawyers for Bank Sarasin, a Swiss private bank, may take a similar course against the weekly paper.

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. Zurich's 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 president's reputation and honor, it would have to pay damages and make amends that could include part of the paper's 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. Weltwoche"s 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 year's 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. Weltwoche"s 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."

Weltwoche"s 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

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