Zürich Insurance (OTCBB:ZURVY) experienced tremendous tragedy when their group Chief Financial Officer Pierre Wauthier committed suicide. My condolences to the Wauthier family and friends.
Now the Chairman of the Board Josef Ackermann has resigned stating that the family may be blaming him for the suicide of Pierre Wauthier. So he can’t go into the office anymore.
There is a CEO Martin Senn that supposedly is driving the Zürich Company and you would think he is the one calling the shots. Also a Vice Chairman Tom de Swann would supposedly have had direct influence and presumably now becomes the de facto Chairman at least for the time being.
Both Martin Senn and Pierre Wauthier do not sit on the board of directors but obviously inter-related closely.
The financial press has hinted darkly about Josef Ackermann past at other financial institutions. Lots of unresolved innuendo which I’m sure will be revisited.
Also there are dark hints that Zürich has some kind of difficulties coming to the surface. The Chairman has chosen to vacate his post and walk away from probably some very lucrative compensation.
It sounds like he needs to have the storm blow over. The question is what kind of storm will it be. Markets hate uncertainty and a normally staid Swiss Insurance Company is serving up a jumbo platter sized serving of uncertainty.
Is Warren Buffett checking his liquidity just in case some great opportunities present themselves? Probably looking at a few assets with hungry eyes.
The family has a few questions and may have a few answers that they are unaware of. While everyone is grieving it would be an hypocrisy to hide behind grief and not come clean on the corporate governance side of the issue.
Is there something to be concerned about? Why does a seasoned CFO at the top of his game commit suicide? Why does the Chairman resign? This sounds like a Tom Clancy novel with a strange Swiss Financial Secrecy twist. In the mean time I pity the stockholders who have lost wealth. More than a few will or should contact their lawyers because someone is getting screwed and it could be you.
For the deep deep value players keep your powder dry and watch the stock closely. Eventually they will fix this and there will be profits to be made. Tragedies aside investing is a blood sport and there are no prisoners.
George Gutowski writes from a caveat emptor perspective. follow him on Twitter @financialskepti