Swiss National Bank Chief Quits Amid Trades Uproar

By Salon Staff

Published January 9, 2012 2:45PM (EST)

GENEVA (AP) — Swiss National Bank Chairman Philip Hildebrand resigned abruptly Monday, bowing to a public uproar over his private currency deals just as a Swiss parliamentary committee was preparing to grill him behind closed doors.

Hildebrand's resignation took effect immediately, Switzerland's central bank said in a brief statement.

A short time later, Hildebrand called an impromputu press conference in the Swiss capital of Bern, where emphasized that he was proud of his achievements and working for financial institutions in Switzerland and international organizations such as the World Bank.

"I would like to think I have been a damn good central banker," Hildebrand told reporters.

"I personally advocated strongly and early for stricter capital requirements for the big banks," he added. "The policy of the central bank was a success in recent years."

For the past week, Switzerland has awash with reports about public unease over the dollar swaps last year that netted Hildebrand and his wife, a former currency trader, tens of thousands of dollars in profits at the same time Hildebrand was working to lower the value of the soaring Swiss franc.

It was his second news conference in less than a week. He first broke weeks of silence Thursday to deny any breach of central bank rules and announce he was donating the trades' profits to charity.

But questions remain about the propriety of the trading, and his departure came just before he was to face a Swiss parliamentary committee Monday seeking answers about the deals he engaged in while leading efforts to soften the Swiss franc.

Hildebrand acknowledged Monday the past few weeks have been "a difficult time."

Lawmakers on the Committees for Economic Affairs and Taxation were holding the confidential session to examine questions such as whether Hildebrand and his wife traded currency from accounts other than the one at Basel-based Bank Sarasin. Hildebrand said he was still appearing before the lawmakers.

Details of the Hildebrands' trading were leaked by an IT support employee at the bank who was apparently concerned about the possibility of insider trading.

The Swiss National Bank cleared Hildebrand of any wrongdoing in a report in late December.

Salon Staff

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