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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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