SWITZERLAND - A sixth pension fund has become embroiled in the alleged insider trading scandal at Swiss bank Swissfirst - the Pensionskasse for the bank itself.

According to the boulevard newspaper Blick, the Fundamenta scheme, sold 9,000 shares it held in the bank just before Swissfirst merged with peer Bellevue in early September 2005.

If confirmed, Fundamenta would have been the sixth Pensionskasse that dumped shares in Swissfirst just before the merger. The Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) alleges that the schemes were involved in an insider trader scheme from which Swissfirst chief executive Thomas Matter may have personally benefited.

In any event, Blick's revelations prompted Rolf Büttiker, head of Fundamenta's supervisory board, to call an impromptu meeting of that board for today.

Büttiker told the NZZ that he would ask the board to hire a lawyer to ascertain the facts surrounding the Swissfirst merger and "to establish whether the interests of Fundamenta's insured were in any way harmed".

Neither Büttiker nor Swissfirst spokesman Mirko Sangiorgio could be reached for additional comment.
Fundamenta has CHF130m (€82.3m) in assets and also serves Swiss employers beyond Zug-based Swissfirst.

Meanwhile, the NZZ's Sunday edition defended its previous claims that the five Pensionskassen, including one for technology giant Siemens and one for pharmaceuticals giant Roche, dumped their shares just before the bank merger.

The newspaper said two Pensionskassen - Ist-Investmentstiftung, a CHF3.8bn fund aimed at public sector employers and the fund for supermarket chain Coop - sold half of their shares in Swissfirst prior to the merger.

Siemens Pensionskasse sold 80%, while the two other schemes - Roche and a fund for the textile and auto components firm Rieter - dumped all of them, it said.

The NZZ believes that the five schemes sacrificed CHF20m in profit, as Swissfirst's share surged following news of the merger. Swiss regulators are investigating both Swissfirst and the Pensionskassen to determine any evidence of insider trading.