Morning Coffee: Outrage at Credit Suisse over Whatsapp message request. The renaissance of Andrea Orcel
There are some definite parallels today between the latest (comparatively minor compared to the rest) upset at Credit Suisse, and a June ruction at JPMorgan. - The Financial Times reports that Credit Suisse has asked employees for access to mobile phones used to communicate with clients and colleagues, and has requested that messages sent already must not be deleted. In June, JPMorgan asked employees to scroll through every WhatsApp message they'd sent in the past three years and to save any that were related to work.
It's possible that regulators are driving the new climate of employer intrusiveness. JPMorgan has just been fined $20m by the Securities and Exchange Commission and Commodity Futures Trading Commission for inadequate monitoring of employee communications, suggesting that banks are being forced to read through employees' old WhatsApps, even if they don't want to.
Blaming the regulator is unlikely to do much to passify people at Credit Suisse though. Insiders at the Swiss bank say they're outraged that having cut costs and compelled employees to pay for their own devices a few years ago, Credit Suisse is now demanding access to those private devices, "so that it can invade our privacy at will." To make matters worse, the change was apparently slipped in under an annual certification on electronic communication, which many employees signed without reading the small print and now want to backtrack upon. Plus, there are suggestions that the changes only apply to the investment bank and that Credit Suisse's wealth managers won't be subject to the same stringent checks.
The Financial Times says the new communications contract states that Credit Suisse "may" access, monitor or review any phone covered by the bank’s corporate plan. Any "logistical communication" like arranging a client meeting will be deemed of interest, and messages relating to bank issues must not be deleted from private phones. The bank will have the right to access employees' private devices, but only for "limited purposes" (although, surely, identifying the correct messages to scrutinize will require heavy and general scrolling).
Credit Suisse employees who haven't done so already have a brief window in which to sign the new contract. It seems that many may refuse. "We use our private devices in the expectation of privacy. This is like working under a dictatorial regime," complains one. "If they want access to our devices, they will need to provide us with a separate work phone, otherwise they are trying to have their cake and eat it."
Separately, while people quickly delete some old WhatsApp messages before signing the new contract at Credit Suisse, one former employee of another Swiss bank is having a very good end to the year thanks in part to his own apparent predilection for monitoring things.
Andrea Orcel was accused of recording private conversations by Santander chairman Ana Botin. The two have been involved in a well-publicized dispute about compensation after Santander withdrew its offer to make Orcel CEO. Orcel took Santander to court for breach of contract and asked for €76m in compensation after the Santander offer was withdrawn, resulting in his loss of deferred compensation at his former employer (UBS) and potential future compensation at his would-be employer (Santander). Botin argued that the contract was never fulfilled and the appointment never took effect.
It's not clear whether the alleged recordings took place, but Orcel did something right. - A court last week awarded him $77m in damages. Santander plans to appeal.
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