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10.01.2012
Swiss Power Politics: Hildebrand & Blocher




Yesterday Philipp Hildebrand resigned as president of the Swiss National Bank (SNB). To many this came as a shock, as he survived last Thursday’s grilling over currency speculation quite well, having been able to sufficiently prove that his Swiss-American wife had made a large purchase of American dollars without his knowledge. While some are pleased with the former SNB president’s decision to step down this incident does raise two points that are worth further investigation.

 

The first issue is how the public came to know about the Hildebrand family’s foreign  currency purchases and suspected currency speculation. After SVP politician Christoph Blocher tried to argue about the indecency of the German government buying confidential bank CDs with client lists to find German tax evaders using Swiss banks, it was exactly Mr. Blocher who used the same techniques to get information about Hildebrand by getting confidential information from a Sarasin Bank employee and leaking it to the the right-inclined magazine Weltwoche

 

Mr. Blocher clearly operates on a double standard. The billionaire industrialist and politician will argue the way he best sees fit for his own and his party’s gain. This is the first issue that this scandal brings to light and I hope that the people of Switzerland do not let Mr. Blocher pull the wool over their eyes to think that he truly has the best interests of country in mind. Mr. Blocher is an opportunist who, while taking advantage of Switzerland’s position in Europe and the world economy, does not acknowledge how Switzerland is also a part of a greater puzzle and that connections run two ways. You can’t have your cake and eat it too, Mr. Blocher.

 

Turning to the man of the hour, Mr. Hildebrand, what we have here is clearly an abuse of power. Even if it was his wife who made the most debated purchase without his knowledge, the entire family was privy to insider information. It is true that he did not break any formal laws, but it must be said that through his opportunism and that of his family he played into the situation. 

 

Despite speculation and losses in the stock market caused by Mr. Hildebrand’s resignation, I believe that his resignation was the best political move to make, as it allows the SNB to move on. The SNB must now work on reestablishing public trust in the institution, which on a national level has been doing its best to fight currency speculation pushing the Swiss franc to record highs.

 

A simple solution would be to bar SNB employees and their families from making large foreign currency purchases without approval from a committee as to the reason for the purchase. The position SNB employees, especially its president, are privy to, means they have an unfair advantage in playing the currency market, which though not illegal, is questionable. 

 

What the Hildebrand affair best illustrates is that Mr. Blocher is out to reestablish himself in politics after his losses in last year’s elections, and is willing to shake up parliament and the markets to do so. With politics being as ruthless as they are on the one side, it calls for moderates to be just that more vigilant and operate by the book and with full disclosure in their actions. This will give others less fuel when they stock the fires to attack. Let’s hope that the interim president, Thomas Jordan, and the eventual new president will understand this principle.

By Christian Langenegger, co-founder of Zurich's Lifestyle Language School
Marathon Sprachen.
Twitter: @langenegger



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