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Business

Zurich Insurance investigates reasons for CFO's suicide

Zurich Insurance has said it will launch an investigation into the reasons for the suicide of its chief financial officer. It wants to determine whether too much pressure was put on him by the former chairman and others.

Europe's third-largest insurer said Friday it was willing to get to the truth about whether or not former chairman and ex-chief of Deutsche Bank, Josef Ackermann, or other executives had exerted excessive pressure on Zurich Insurance's Chief Financial Officer, Pierre Wauthier, who was found dead at his home on Monday. Police said Friday there was no doubt left that he had committed suicide.

In a surprise move on Thursday, Josef Ackermann resigned as Zurich's Chairman, indicating the family of Wauthier believed he shared some responsibility for his death. Ackermann himself denied the allegations, but argued he'd step down so as not to damage the company.

Zurich's acting chairman, Tom de Swaan, confirmed Wauthier had left a suicide note in which he talked about Ackermann.

Poor business a bone of contention?

"We're aware of the letter's content, and it's correct that it's related to the relationship between Wauthier and Ackermann," de Swaan said in a statement. "The board sees it as its prime responsibility to look into the question as to whether there was undue pressure placed on our CFO."

Tom de Swaan made a point of emphasizing that Josef Ackermann had not been talked into resigning. "It was his own decision," he commented.

Zurich's shares have been the worst performing insurance stock in Europe over the past six months, logging a 17-percent drop in the first half of the year with most other competitors on the continent securing bottom-line profits.

The company said the poor results were due to low interest rates, but above all a result of large payouts on natural disaster-related claims.

hg/hc (Reuters, dpa)