In a shocking turn of events on Friday, Credit Suisse was ordered to pay $926 million to Georgia’s former prime minister for losing part of his fortune, in a Singapore court verdict that is claimed to be one of the most huge legal awards made against the bank.
According to Singapore’s International Commercial Court, a unit of Credit Suisse had not acted in good faith and refused to keep the assets of Bidzina Ivanishvili safe, in the most recent blow to the troubled bank, which is being acquired by UBS.
Soon after, Credit Suisse said it would challenge the verdict. Billionaire businessman Ivanishvili, who was also Georgia’s prime minister from 2012 to 2013, had put $1.1 billion under the trusteeship of Credit Suisse Trust in 2005, as per what was revealed to the court.
Cavinder Bull and Woo Shu Yan, Ivanishvili’s lawyers, who hail from the law firm Drew & Napier said Credit Suisse Trust’s “failings had led to fraudulent mismanagement and substantial losses.”
On Friday when its judgment was published, the court said the bank had failed to protect Ivanishvili’s assets by deflecting Patrice Lescaudron, an adviser at Credit Suisse Trust in Singapore, from having access to them.
In 2018, Lescaudron was convicted by a Swiss court for forging signatures of former clients, including Ivanishvili, over a period of eight years. He confessed falsifying trades and concealing losses in a scheme that brought him tens of millions of Swiss francs. He was released in 2019 and committed suicide in 2020.
“It is not accepted that the defendant’s conduct was reasonable,” Judge Patricia Bergin said in a written judgment.
“It preferred the importance of Mr Lescaudron in retaining the big client, the plaintiff, with the Credit Suisse organisation to the compliance with its core obligation of keeping the Trust assets safe.”
Credit Suisse knew Lescaudron had violated regulations that were meant to prevent fraud and had waited for up to two years for a response from him when questioned, Bergin said.
“Its tolerance of these flagrant breaches was not in good faith and was unreasonable,” Bergin added.
The $926 million to be paid by Credit Suisse will be diminished by $79 million as it was already paid in December.
“The judgment published today is wrong and poses very significant legal issues,” Credit Suisse said in a statement.
“Credit Suisse Trust Limited intends to vigorously pursue an appeal,” it added.
The bank is also challenging another judgment concerning its management of Ivanishvili’s assets.
In March 202, the Bermuda court said that Ivanishvili and his family are due damages of around $600 million from Credit Suisse’s local life insurance arm.
Moreover, the final sum due from Credit Suisse should be reduced to prevent a convergence with the Bermuda case and refrain from a so-called double recovery, according to the court. At present, Credit Suisse is appealing the Bermuda decision.
A person well informed of the matter said the overlap is forecasted to be about $300 million and that Credit Suisse has already taken provisions for part of the total compensation.
In the Singapore case, the bank will appeal on the basis that the compensation concerning the money lost due to bad investment decisions rather than just fraud.
A spokesman for Ivanishvili welcomed the Singapore decision.
“Despite the judgment in Bermuda last year and the admission of breach of duty during the Singapore trial, Credit Suisse has continued to frustrate our clients’ efforts to seek redress for the crimes committed by its employees,” the spokesperson said.
“We expect Credit Suisse to fully comply with the judgment and finally accept responsibility for its failures.”