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Another “Collateralized Death Obligation” at Zurich Insurance

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Mar­tin Senn

COMMENT: In FTR #‘s 772, 792 and 823, we not­ed the remark­able num­ber of sus­pi­cious deaths in the glob­al finan­cial indus­try, usu­al­ly dis­missed as “sui­cides,” often despite over­whelm­ing evi­dence to the con­trary. Now, the for­mer CEO of Zurich Insur­ance Group, Mar­tin Senn, has joined his for­mer CFO (Pierre Wau­thi­er), alleged­ly tak­ing his own life.

The deaths of Senn and Wau­thi­er are the lat­est in what some see as an unusu­al num­ber of sui­cides in the realm of Swiss finance–” . . . . He [Mar­tin Nav­ille] knew Senn, who was pres­i­dent of the cham­ber, as well as Wau­thi­er, who had British-French dual cit­i­zen­ship. He also knew Carsten Schlot­er, the Ger­man-born head of tele­coms group Swiss­com, who took his life in 2013, and Alex Wid­mer, head of bank Julius Baer, who com­mit­ted sui­cide in 2008. . . .. . . . Staid for most of its near­ly 150 years, Zurich Insur­ance rose to promi­nence in the 1990s with a series of takeovers. But its for­tunes turned in 2001, when the Sept. 11 attacks in the Unit­ed States left it with heavy loss­es, while run­away expens­es at its head­quar­ters hit the bot­tom line – and share­hold­er trust. . . .”

We note in pass­ing that the 9/11 attacks inflict­ed heavy loss­es on Zurich Insur­ance. Whether or not that had any­thing to do with the deaths remains to be deter­mined.

“A Sec­ond Zurich Insur­ance Exec­u­tive Has Com­mit­ted Sui­cide” by Alan­na Petroff; CNN Mon­ey; 5/30/2016.

The for­mer CEO of Zurich Insur­ance Group, Mar­tin Senn, has tak­en his own life just months after leav­ing the com­pa­ny.
Sen­n’s death comes less than three years after the com­pa­ny’s for­mer CFO, Pierre Wau­thi­er, also com­mit­ted sui­cide.

“It is with great shock and sad­ness that we must inform you of the sud­den death of Mar­tin Senn,” Zurich Insur­ance said in a state­ment on Mon­day. “His fam­i­ly informed us that Mar­tin took his life last Fri­day.”

Senn, 59, was a long-time employ­ee of the insur­er, serv­ing as its chief exec­u­tive for six years before step­ping down in Decem­ber.
Senn said he was con­fi­dent that Zurich was well posi­tioned to meet its tar­gets at the time of his res­ig­na­tion, but did acknowl­edge some “set­backs.”

The com­pa­ny had been plan­ning a large acqui­si­tion of the U.K. insur­ance firm RSA Group, but the deal was scup­pered in Sep­tem­ber due to a “dete­ri­o­ra­tion in the trad­ing per­for­mance of Zurich’s gen­er­al insur­ance busi­ness,” accord­ing to an RSA state­ment.

That part of the com­pa­ny’s busi­ness was under pres­sure after it was forced to pay out $275 mil­lion in claims relat­ed to a major port explo­sion in Tian­jin, Chi­na.
Wau­thi­er, who worked under Senn, was found dead at his home in Switzer­land in August 2013.

The exec­u­tive had writ­ten a note before his death that men­tioned Zurich’s well-known for­mer chair­man, Josef Ack­er­mann, who sub­se­quent­ly resigned from his post. . . .

“An Unusu­al Num­ber of Top Exec­u­tives in Switzer­land Are Com­mit­ting Sui­cide” by John Miller and John O’Don­nell [Reuters]; Busi­ness Insid­er; 6/3/2016.

. . . . Acquain­tances of Senn, 59, said he had been with­drawn since he was oust­ed from the com­pa­ny late last year, though few details of the cir­cum­stances that led to him shoot­ing him­self at his fam­i­ly home in the upmar­ket Alpine resort of Klosters have emerged.

Mar­tin Nav­ille, chief exec­u­tive of the Swiss-Amer­i­can Cham­ber of Com­merce, said the busi­ness cir­cles where Senn and Wau­thi­er once moved had been left shocked, pon­der­ing what could have been done to pre­vent the tragedies.

“The only thing you can do is to be more atten­tive to signs,” Nav­ille said.

He knew Senn, who was pres­i­dent of the cham­ber, as well as Wau­thi­er, who had British-French dual cit­i­zen­ship. He also knew Carsten Schlot­er, the Ger­man-born head of tele­coms group Swiss­com, who took his life in 2013, and Alex Wid­mer, head of bank Julius Baer, who com­mit­ted sui­cide in 2008. . . .

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