Josef Ackerman, the chairman of Zurich Insurance and former chief executive officer (CEO) of Deutsche Bank, has stepped down following the recent death of the insurer’s chief financial officer (CFO), Pierre Wauthier, which authorities believe may have been a suicide.
In a statement released by Zurich, Ackermann stated “I have reasons to believe the family is of the opinion that I should take my share of responsibility, as unfounded as any allegations might be.” He added that he had decided to resign to avoid any potential damage to Zurich’s reputation.
Zurich’s CEO, Martin Senn, said he was not aware of any dispute that could have driven Wauthier to take his own life. “We didn’t spot any conflicts that could or should have led to such a death,” he told Swiss television. The company regretted Ackermann’s decision to leave, he added. Zurich said that vice chairman, Tom de Swaan, will now become acting chairman.
In May, Zurich Insurance reported a 7% drop in its first quarter profit for the first quarter, but assured investors it was on track to meet its performance targets for 2013 such as boosting profitability at the general insurance business, its largest unit. However, on 15 August Zurich admitted that these targets were likely to be missed after a 27% fall in second quarter net profit due to natural disaster payouts, which topped those of its European rivals because of the company’s high exposure to US losses.
Wauthier’s death comes a month after Carsten Schloter, CEO of Swisscom, was found dead at his home in what was determined a suicide. The deaths, as well as the abrupt departure of other high-ranking executives at Swiss companies, have triggered a public debate over the work-life balance within the country’s major corporates.
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