After being blatantly scapegoated and unceremoniously pushed out of Credit Suisse by his former boss and one-time mentor, Pierre-Olivier Bouee, the former COO of the Swiss megabank, has decided that it's time to fight back.
Those who closely followed media reports about Credit Suisse's spying scandal will likely remember that a pedestrian spat over shrubbery sparked one of the biggest scandals to rock to Swiss banking world since the American government cracked down on tax cheats hiding their money in Switzerland.
Thanks to a personal spat between CS CEO Tidjane Thiam and Iqbal Khan, Khan quit as head of the bank’s head of wealth management in July, and soon found himself with a job offer from UBS. Alarmed by such a high-profile defection, CS hired a security team to effectively spy on Khan to stop him from poaching other employees and clients.
However, this plot soon blew up in the bank's face, when Khan decided to confront one of the security team members after he made them while traveling through downtown Zurich. The confrontation turned physical, and a member of the security team was eventually arrested for allegedly threatening Khan.
Soon after news of the spying scandal hit the press in September, a liaison who reportedly connected CS with the security team committed suicide over the embarrassment. The story quickly spread, sparking a public discussion about corporate espionage. Some reports claimed CS also engaged in this type of surveillance in the US.
Credit Suisse launched an internal probe, prompting some to speculate that Thiam might be dethroned. But the investigation into the spying saga eventually cleared Thiam of any knowledge or involvement, while the full burden of responsibility fell on his COO.
Months later, Bouee has hired a legal team to fight to clear his name after CS accused him of coordinating two separate spy schemes. According to a report in a Swiss industry publication, the notion that Bouée set in motion two spy operations targeting Khan and banker Peter Goerke without anyone else's knowledge - the determination of Credit Suisse's law firm Homburger - is difficult to believe.
And when he left the bank, Bouee also left some $4 million in vested Credit Suisse stock-based compensation on the table.
Anonymous sources told a reporter that Bouee has retained counsel and his "exploring his options," though Bouee refused to confirm or deny this.
Since Swiss prosecutors are now investigating, Bouee, who moved his family to Switzerland to take a top job, might have a hard time winning a comparable position while Finma and prosecutors investigate the situation. Bouee hasn't spoken about the scandal since leaving CS, but the bank says he lied about the second case of spying, used unofficial chat apps to coordinate with a security team, and then deleted messages to try and cover his tracks. However, his motivation for doing all thi remains unclear.
Bouee had for decades been close to Thiam: The two met nearly 20 years ago at McKinsey. Then Bouee followed the French-Ivorian executive to British insurer Aviva in 2002, then, six years later, to Prudential, where Thiam secured his first CEO post.
The report makes one thing clear: one of the most entertaining banking scandals from last year still has some legs.