UBS’s new boss involved in old money laundering case
UBS could have done without this publicity. Ralph Hamers had hardly had the time to get his bearings since officially taking over as the bank’s CEO on 1 November 2020, than a problem from his past has arisen – a legal case dating back to 2018, which seemed to have been settled and has now caught up with him.
A Dutch court has reopened an investigation into his role in a money laundering scandal at ING, his former employer, for whom he worked for more than 30 years. Originally, ING, which had been accused of not having monitored its clients sufficiently and turning a blind eye to potential money laundering transactions, had reached an out-of-court settlement with Dutch courts, paying €775m in 2018. However, a Dutch court in The Hague has decided to pursue the investigation into Hamers, without calling into question the agreement settlement with ING.
“UBS takes note of the decision of the Dutch courts to order the public prosecutor to open an investigation of Ralph Hamers, in his capacity as the former CEO of ING, relating to ING's anti-money laundering compliance,” the Swiss bank said, while ensuring that it had “full confidence” in its CEO’s ability to manage the bank.
UBS also insisted that these facts were known by the board of directors, which had taken them into consideration when Hamers joined the group. The facts may well have been known, but it is not clear that the bank properly assessed the risk of the case being reopened.
In March 2021, UBS will already have to manage the appeal of its €3.7bn fine imposed by a French court in 2019 for illicit bank prospecting and facilitating tax fraud. The investigation involving its new CEO for facts of a similar nature, even though they were committed in another structure, will probably do nothing for UBS’s reputation. USB’s share price hardly budged yesterday, gaining just 0.16% to CHF 12.89 (€12).