In the first extensive interview since her husband's death last
August, Fabienne Wauthier told Reuters she would attend Zurich's
annual general meeting (AGM) on Wednesday — along with her daughter
and her late husband's mother and brother — to voice concerns about
how a probe into the suicide was conducted.
She says she is dissatisfied with the investigation, commissioned by
Switzerland's financial regulator FINMA and conducted by law firm
During the Homburger probe, Wauthier's widow has said she was never
approached by the law firm, which has previously carried out work
for Zurich and was asked by FINMA to look into whether the CFO had
come under "undue pressure". It concluded he had not.
Josef Ackermann, the Zurich chairman who stepped down after being
mentioned in one of two suicide notes left by the 53-year-old
executive, had described Wauthier's death as a "very tragic event"
but denied responsibility for it.
Sources who saw the note said it blamed Ackermann for creating an
unbearable work environment.
Mrs. Wauthier, a 55-year-old French woman who has said little in
public since the death, said she wanted the company to reconsider
whether the probe was complete, to explain why Ackermann resigned if
he did not accept blame and why details of tension at work were not
made public after it pledged to look into the allegations made in
the suicide note.
"We are not going there for money nor revenge," she added.
Zurich spokesman Angel Serna, when asked for comment on Mrs.
Wauthier's version of events, said: "We are still saddened by what
has happened, and we will never know the reasons for his
Heinz Schaerer, a senior partner at Homburger who led the probe,
declined to comment. FINMA also declined to comment on details of
how the investigation was carried out.
Wauthier's appearance at the AGM comes at an uncomfortable time for
Zurich Insurance, a conservative 142-year old company that has spent
the past half year trying to restore calm and reassure investors in
the wake of the suicide.
"We have asked Zurich to do the right thing," said Mrs. Wauthier,
who spoke to Reuters for more than four hours at the family home in
Walchwil, a 19th-century lakefront guesthouse that Pierre first
spotted when out running.
Photos and mementos around the house paint the picture of a
well-travelled, close-knit family adjusting to children leaving — a
daughter studying at Cambridge University and a son in California,
where the Wauthiers lived until 2007.
Emotional at times, she spoke about events leading up to the death
and revealed details, including an alert to the human resources
department before her husband's suicide, that have not previously
Reuters approached more than a dozen people who worked closely with
Wauthier, including Ackermann, who all declined to comment. As a
result, Reuters was unable to corroborate the details of his widow's
[to top of second column]
HR ALERTED OF STRESS
By June last year, Mrs. Wauthier said her husband had become
disillusioned with the atmosphere at Zurich.
He began to question whether he wanted to stay in a post he had long
seen as his "dream job" and decided to discreetly cast around for
alternatives outside Zurich.
In July, he met with the human resources department, which Mrs.
Wauthier and two sources familiar with the matter said had been
alerted by his team that he was suffering from excessive stress.
He told HR staff he was feeling the strain but hoped to recover
during two weeks of summer holidays he would soon take.
The Zurich spokesman said: "We did not have any indication that
Pierre was contemplating such a step (suicide). If we had, we would
have immediately taken action."
In August, company sources said Wauthier and Ackermann clashed over
the presentation of financial goals with the insurer's
To the outside world, Wauthier helped present the earnings figures
in mid-August with the friendly professionalism he was known for.
But he had by then already decided he would leave the insurer,
according to his widow.
His attempts to find another position outside Zurich never got off
the ground, largely because Wauthier was putting in such long hours
that he found little time to look elsewhere.
The CFO told his wife he would quit even without a new job.
But hours before he killed himself he told his wife, who was in Los
Angeles helping their son get settled at Pepperdine University, that
he wanted to wait for a "quarter with good results" before
During that nearly hourlong conversation, she says he gave no sign
he was distraught enough to contemplate suicide.
The following day, Wauthier was found dead at home. Ackermann
resigned three days later, saying he believed Wauthier's family
wanted him to do so.
(Additional reporting by Alice Baghdjian;
editing by Noah Barkin and
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