Media: Switzerland faces problems after Credit Suisse AT1 write-off

Broken wings: the Credit Suisse logo at a meeting in Zurich earlier this month. © Keystone / Michael Buholzer

The finance ministry has confirmed that two legal actions have been filed against the state-backed rescue of Credit Suisse, which wiped out CHF16 billion ($17.9 billion) of risky bonds.

This content was published on April 16, 2023

The SonntagsZeitung newspaper writes that various other investors are also examining how to appeal the controversial decision to wipe out the value of AT1 (Additional Tier One Capital) bonds during the emergency takeover by UBS last month.

+ All the latest updates on the Credit Suisse crisisExternal link

Law professor Thomas Werlen, who represents international legal firm Quinn Emanuel in Switzerland, told the paper that complaints may appeal to the terms of international investment protection treaties, which foresee reparations in the case of state expropriation.

Switzerland has signed over 100 such agreements with countries around the world.

Swiss financial regulator FINMA has maintained that it was contractually stipulated that the AT1 bonds would be written off in the case of a “viability” or emergency event – “in particular if extraordinary government support is granted”.

FINMA says that this “viability event” took place on Sunday, March 19, the day of the historic UBS deal.

CHF8 billion risk

But the SonntagsZeitung says questions remain about whether – and when exactly – Credit Suisse was actually insolvent, rather than illiquid, and thus entitled to wipe out the bonds.

The newspaper adds that the result of legal cases – should the Swiss state be found to have wrongly expropriated the bondholders – could be a bill of CHF8 billion, i.e. the market value of the AT1 bonds on March 17.

The write-down of the bonds, while Credit Suisse shareholders received payouts at the stock’s takeover value, was a reversal of normal investor hierarchies and was subsequently questioned by the Bank of England and the European Central Bank.

+ Clients of Japan’s MUFG lost $700 million in CS wipeout

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