Zurich Insurance: No 'undue pressure' found linked to former chief financial officer's suicide

GENEVA – Two independent probes directed by Swiss regulators found no indication that Zurich Insurance Group’s former chief financial officer was subject to undue pressure before he killed himself, the company said Monday.

The statement by Switzerland’s biggest insurer also said no financial misreporting was uncovered in connection with the probes directed by the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA). But the company’s board chairman acknowledged he still has no explanation why CFO Pierre Wauthier, a well-respected 17-year veteran at Zurich, was found dead on Aug. 26 at his lakeside home in Walchwil, Switzerland, in what police said was an apparent suicide.

“We are still deeply saddened by the loss of Pierre Wauthier and we are unable to explain the motivation behind his tragic decision. FINMA’s investigation was conducted with Zurich’s full support and co-operation,” said Tom de Swaan, the board chairman.

One probe by FINMA focused on whether Ackermann or any other decision-maker exerted inappropriate pressure on Wauthier, but “found no indication of any such pressure or other inappropriate conduct nor of any improper management of Zurich,” the company said.

The other probe of Zurich’s financial statements “found no irregularities with regard to financial reporting, which complies with regulatory and accounting requirements,” it said.

Wauthier, a 53-year-old married father of two, left behind a note describing his strained working relationship with then-chairman Josef Ackermann, the former head of Deutsche Bank and one of Germany’s best-known business figures.

Wauthier’s widow said she considered Ackermann at least partly responsible for her husband’s death. Ackermann abruptly resigned to avoid further damage to the company but called her accusations “unfounded.” In his note, Wauthier said Ackermann had created an unbearable work environment and that they fought over how the company did its financial reporting.