It is tough to believe that any banker, following the Wells Fargo debacle, would fool around with customer signatures. Nonetheless, Credit Suisse private banker, Patrice Lescaudron, admitted cutting and pasting his client’s signature to make unauthorized, high-risk stock transaction.stock bets. The client was Bidzina Ivanishvili, and Credit Suisse was ordered to pay the client $555 million. Mr. Ivanishvili sued the bank for breach of contract and fiduciary duty. However, Credit Suisse’s defense was, “Hey, we got hoodwinked too by the guy.”
However, Mr. Ivanishvili, who had invested $1 billion with the bank over a ten-year period, was able to establish that Mr. Lescaudron repeatedly broke bank rules. Managers turned a blind eye to the antics because Mr. Lescaudron brought in $25 million in annual revenue to Credit Suisse. Unfortunately, he brought very little revenue to Mr. Ivanishvili. The court awarded him the money he would have made had Mr. Lescaudron just opted for medium-risk investments — the $555 million.
The best part of the story is that Credit Suisse is appealing. Mr. Ivanishvili is shocked, shocked that Credit Suisse is still refusing to pay. Mr. Ivanishvili should have checked on Credit Suisse. The bank recently set aside additional funds for legal fees as it cleans up other messes. Julie Steinberg, “Credit Suisse Warns of Dent to Earnings From Legal Costs,” Wall Street Journal, January 26, 2022, p. B11. $545 million there. $500 million here. Pretty quick you have a billion invested in fighting legal woes or repaying clients. And this dear bank has been hauled in before Congress to explain hy it ordered clients to destroy documents about their investments at the bank. Russian oligarchs are involved in this one because there are questions about the bank’s compliance with financials sanctions on Russia. Margot Kidder, “Credit Suisse Probed Over Compliance with Sanctions,” Wall Street Journal, March 29, 2022, p. A7. After the Archegos losses of $5.5 billion, Credit Suisse lost two chief compliance officers just four months apart. The new one barely got her feet wet before she was out the door. Dylan Tokar, “Compliance Head Quits Swiss Bank,” Wall Street Journal, July 13, 2021, p. B9.
A tip for the new chief compliance officer: Pay attention to the enforcement processes and sanction. And never let even top private bankers off the hook. Mr. Lescaudron was a push-the-envelope kind of guy and had a history of having breaches of bank rules ignored, glossed over, or lightly addressed. Employees don’t wake up one day and start forging their clients’ signatures. They take a descending path into illegality with tiny steps that are, well, ignored, glossed over, or lightly addressed. And, like Mr. Lescaudron, they are ignored. He was sentenced to five yers. He was released from prison in 2019 and killed himself in 2020. We worry about the small things because they ripen into BIG things, often tragic things.