Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Franc-ly, My Dear...

Kashya and Philipp Hildebrand
Said the head of the Swiss central bank,
Whose wife played the dollar and franc:
"I may be remiss,
In our conjugal bliss,
If it's me she's beholden to thank."

Money and politics make for a volatile mixture; add marriage, and the results can be explosive. So were the halls of the Swiss National Bank rocked on Monday by the resignation of its chairman, following a scandal involving his wife's well-timed currency trades. Philipp Hildebrand, at 46 the youngest-ever Swiss central banking head, maintained that he had no prior knowledge of wife Kashya's purchase of US$504,000 against Swiss francs; Mrs. Hildebrand made this trade shortly before Mr. Hildebrand's bold currency intervention that drove down the value of the franc vs. the dollar and earned her a 17% profit. The case occurs against a tense political backdrop, in which Mr. Hildebrand's push for more openness in the Swiss banking system has met with strong resistance from the conservative Swiss People's Party. Against such opposition, the SNB chairman soon found himself in a farewell press conference: "Central bankers need to be absolutely credible," he said. "The resignation fills me with sadness." Mrs. Hildebrand, who had worked for the Moore Capital hedge fund in the '90s, expressed her remorse in a $79,000 donation to charity, effectively disgorging the tainted profits.

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