When Colleen Graham heard a story of investigators looking into Credit Suisse for spying on its recently departed head of wealth management, something sounded familiar.
She had recalled, years prior, when she was working on a JV between the bank and Palantir Technologies, a "striking tall blonde" had followed her in Manhattan after she refused to sign off on how revenue from the JV would be booked. She filed a complaint in 2017 alleging the bank had taken retaliatory measures against her, including the surveillance, according to Bloomberg.
Credit Suisse had “expressed strong frustration” about her stance on the revenue recognition, she claimed.
So she reached out to CEO Tidjane Thiam and Chairman Urs Rohner, offering up the details of her story. She also reached out to the law firm the bank hired to investigate.
However, on October 1, the lawyers came out and said they had “not identified any evidence that Credit Suisse had ordered observations of other employees.” Instead, it was COO Pierre-Olivier Bouee who had acted alone in ordering the former employee be followed. Rohner said that staff surveillance was not “part of our toolbox.”
The bank said it’s “examining the new information.”
Graham's report didn't make it into the lawyer's findings. Additionally, Swiss newspaper NZZ reported on December 16 that the bank's HR chief, Peter Goerke, was also followed for 3 days in February.
The events continue to act as a headwind for Thiam, who is focused on trying to shift the narrative to Credit Suisse's performance - and away from the scandal that has dented the bank's reputation. Questions continue to be raised about who was "in the know" about the behavior at the bank.
Credit Suisse said the results of its own investigation will be published on Monday.
Preliminary results show no evidence of Thiam having knowledge of the surveillance. Swiss financial regulators are also stepping up their investigation into the bank. Finma appointed an independent auditor to look into the spying allegations, according to a statement late on Friday. The activities raise "various compliance issues," according to the regulator.
In an email to Thiam and Rohner in September, Graham says she was followed from the “lobby of my lawyer’s office into a pharmacy several blocks away and to the building where I was interviewing” at BlackRock. She also says she saw the same woman in a black Range Rover following her on Long Island. She said “the woman wanted me to know she was following me.”
She heard nothing in response to her email, so she also wrote to the law firm, Homburger. A lawyer responded, suggesting they speak by phone on September 30, one day prior to the firm releasing their report.
Graham worked as senior compliance executive at Credit Suisse before being hired to head Signac, a venture that used Palantir software to detect unauthorized trading by employees. Department of Labor investigators also looked at her allegations and dismissed the claims in April. Credit Suisse has called them "baseless".
Recall, this is hardly the first time "business intelligence firms" or spies have been used in the world of finance. Critics of the company Wirecard were recently targeted by spies, according to the FT. Well known short seller Carson Block even caught one spy on camera after he claimed to be a WSJ reporter while digging for information.
In 2017, another "gorgeous blonde" spy was famously outed after apparently seeking counterintelligence on a controversial insurance company. She was later found to be the woman who tried to coerce information out of Rose McGowan on behalf of Harvey Weinstein and in 2019, later outed herself officially in an embarrassing apology tour.