Swiss MPs grill central bank chief

Philipp HildebrandA Swiss parliamentary committee is to hold a hearing with central bank chief Philipp Hildebrand behind closed doors in a bid to get answers about private currency deals he engaged in while leading efforts to soften the Swiss franc.

Mr Hildebrand, 48, broke weeks of silence on Thursday to deny breaching central bank rules amid continuing public unease over the dollar swaps that netted his family tens of thousands last year.
He acknowledged that three dollar deals totalling more than two million (£1.3 million) could be misinterpreted, but said his only mistake was to let his wife go through with one particularly sensitive transaction that occurred two days before the central bank increased liquidity of the franc. Mr Hildebrand said he had since donated the profits to charity.

Swiss MPs on the committees for economic affairs and taxation said the hearing will be confidential but the media will be briefed afterwards.

"Doing it in public would mean that those who are being heard wouldn't say what we want to hear," said Philipp Mueller of the pro-business Free Democratic Party.

Mr Mueller said MPs would be examining questions such as whether Mr Hildebrand and his wife traded currency from accounts other than the one at Basel-based Bank Sarasin, details of which were leaked by an IT support employee apparently concerned about the possibility of insider trading.

The committee will also discuss whether family members need to be covered by the central bank's rules on staff conduct, and whether Switzerland's insider trading laws should be expanded to include currency speculation, Mr Mueller said.

Another committee member, Corrado Pardini of the Social Democratic Party, said the Swiss National Bank's decision to let its regular auditors, PricewaterhouseCoopers, review Mr Hildebrand's conduct would also be discussed.
Critics have said the central bank's rules left considerable room for interpretation, and the verdict reached by the auditors made several assumptions that worked in Mr Hildebrand's favour. "The question of PwC's independence will be raised," Mr Pardini added.
© 2012 Press Association
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