SWITZERLAND - The five Swiss pension funds involved in the Swissfirst insider trading scandal have been dubbed "bunglers" by the president of Switzerland's Social Security Fund.
Ulrich Grete's comments are the latest intervention in an affair triggered by a report in the NZZ newspaper. It alleged the Pensionskassen may have been involved in a scheme from which Swissfirst chief executive Thomas Matter personally benefited.
On Thursday, Matter vehemently denied the allegation, insisting that no insider trading took place ahead of Swissfirst's merger in September 2005 with another bank called Bellevue. Swiss regulators are investigating both Swissfirst and the funds.
Nonetheless, Grete said the events surrounding Swissfirst were not surprising considering the incompetence of supervisory boards for Pensionskassen.
"There are too many bunglers on these boards who don't have a clue about the subject matter," Grete told Swiss boulevard newspaper Blick.
"The reason for this is that Swiss law does not require those on supervisory boards of Pensionskassen to be experts. This is an inherent flaw of the system," he added.
To improve matters, Grete said consolidation of Swiss Pensionsksassen, which currently number 8,000, was desperately needed. "There only need to be around 1,000 schemes," he said, adding that the threshold for their assets would be between CHF2bn (€1.3bn) and CHF5bn.
Grete said the government could spur such consolidation by encouraging smaller Swiss employers to pool their schemes.
Meanwhile, two Pensionskassen named in connection with alleged insider trading at Swissfirst have cast some doubt on their involvement.
The schemes for technology giant Siemens and the supermarket chain Coop told the NZZ that contrary to claims by its Sunday edition, they did not sell all of their shareholdings in Swissfirst prior to its merger with Bellevue.
Siemens' Pensionskasse added that it had notified Swissfirst well in advance of the merger that it had planned on reducing its holdings.