ZURICH Dec 19 Switzerland's financial regulator
gave its top bank overseer Mark Branson the all-clear over his
past role as head of UBS in Japan at a time when the
Swiss bank's traders there were manipulating benchmark interest
"None of the five investigations that have been concluded up
until today have shown that Mark Branson was involved in the
Libor matter or knew anything about it," a spokesman for
watchdog FINMA told Reuters.
He was speaking after UBS accepted a $1.5 billion fine on
Wednesday as part of a global probe into how its staff
orchestrated the manipulation of rates including yen
British-born Branson was chief executive of UBS in Japan
from 2006 to early in 2008, much of the time that the Swiss bank
admitted traders in Tokyo rigged rates.
Branson first become known to a wider public in 2009, when
he apologised to a U.S. Senate panel for UBS helping wealthy
Americans to dodge taxes. UBS later settled a U.S. probe into
tax evasion by paying $780 million and handing over client data.
He switched sides in 2010, leaving UBS after 12 years to
become head of regulator FINMA's banks division.
FINMA recused Branson from all UBS Libor matters late this
summer, to avoid any impression of a conflict of interest.
General counsel Urs Zulauf has led FINMA's Libor
investigations and coordination with the U.S. Department of
Justice (DoJ) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission
(CFTC), the UK's Financial Services Authority (FSA) and Japan's
Financial Services Authority.
FINMA's website lists Branson as responsible for investment
banking, securities, asset management and private banking when
he oversaw UBS's Japan activities until 2008.
However, UBS's Libor traders answered to investment banking
leadership in London, and not to Branson, according to FINMA.
Nevertheless, Branson's job in Japan has raised eyebrows in
"Such a situation is extraordinarily difficult, but
questions have to be raised in terms of what his role was in
this matter," Christian Levrat, president of Switzerland's
Social Democrats (SP), told Reuters on Wednesday.
"What did he know, what should he have known, how close was
he to the employees who have left the bank - there are a host of
questions that should be posed," Levrat said.