Shaken Zurich Insurance probes CFO’s suicide
Zurich insurance has launched an investigation into whether there was “undue pressure” on the company’s chief financial officer, Pierre Wauthier, who committed suicide earlier this week.
Wauthier, 53, left a suicide note referring to his relationship with company chairman Josef Ackermann, who resigned on Thursday in the wake of the death.
“We were informed that such a letter exists and we are aware of its content,” Zurich’s acting chairman Tom de Swaan told a conference call with reporters and analysts on Friday.
The note “related to the relationship between Pierre Wauthier and Joe Ackermann,” de Swaan said.
“It would be inappropriate for me to further elaborate on this.”
Ackermann, who joined the insurance company in March 2012 after serving as CEO for Deutsche Bank, said he quit because he believed Wauthier’s family “is of the opinion that I should take my share of responsibility, as unfounded as any allegations might be.”
Ackermann, 65, added that he decided to resign “to avoid any damage to Zurich’s reputation”.
However, the company appears to be struggling to deal with a media storm unleashed by the death of Wauthier, whose body was found in his home on Monday.
The dual British and French citizen had worked as Zurich’s CFO since 2011.
The price of Zurich’s shares fell for three days this week before rebounding slightly on Friday as investors worried over the possible consequences of the impact of management changes.
De Swaan emphasized that Ackermann's decision to step down was a personal one.
He said he was unaware of any inappropriate behaviour in the board room but the company would to look to see if Wauthier faced pressure elsewhere.
“The recent developments have been extremely unsettling and our focus is on ensuring the continued stability of the company,” he said.