External investigation and evaluation confirm unacceptable misconduct – Swiss Post Board of Directors undertakes measures
The external enquiry report in the PostBus case and the independent expert evaluation for the period from 2007 to 2015 are now available. Both clearly show how serious the unlawful reclassifications were at PostBus, how they continued for years and how manipulation took place. The Board of Directors of Swiss Post Ltd is now undertaking operational and personnel-related measures which will constitute the first step towards a new start. The Board of Directors has decided to dismiss all members of the PostBus Executive Board due to its lack of confidence in them. CEO Susanne Ruoff has tendered her resignation. The enquiry report and expert evaluation have been made available to the public with immediate effect.
The comprehensive external investigation by the law firm Kellerhals Carrard into the irregular accounting practices at PostBus between 2007 and 2015 is complete. The evaluation by the three independent experts is also ready. A clear picture is painted by the reports, which are based on an evaluation of a large number of documents (see “Overview of facts” (PDF, 58.6 KB)). “I am shocked at the energy PostBus placed into manipulating its accounting and systematically concealing profits in order to collect excess subsidies. The Confederation, cantons, taxpayers and business partners have all been deceived. It is alarming to realize that all the control mechanisms in place at Swiss Post Group clearly failed to do their job for years”, says Chairman of the Board Urs Schwaller. These practices, which took place over a number of years, evidently caused the collective awareness of what is legal to be lost. “There is no justification for what went on for many years.”
Package of measures decided on
After detailed discussions, the Swiss Post Board of Directors is therefore taking steps. These include operational and personnel-related measures (see “Overview of measures” (PDF, 60.8 KB)). From an operational point of view, the reorganization known as IMPRESA will be reversed. The holding structure adopted in 2014 and introduced on 1 January 2016 was intended to secure profits through transfer prices to PostBus subsidiaries. The IMPRESA transfer price concept will be replaced by a transparent form of organization without transfer prices. In addition, the Board of Directors has tasked Executive Management with assessing an orderly exit from the passenger transport business in France. One option is the sale of the company. Business will continue as normal until a final decision is made.
A compliance programme is also to be established within the Group. It will define the measures to prevent violations of law in future. To ensure the rapid implementation of all the measures decided on, the Board of Directors is setting up a “PostBus committee” to closely monitor the process.
“We are of course keeping to our word: PostBus will pay back every franc owed.” The money is ready and is to be paid to the injured parties by the autumn. The repayment terms will be determined by the Federal Office of Transport (FOT).
Board of Directors parts company with the PostBus Executive Board and CEO
The investigation reveals that various members of Executive Management and the Board of Directors are mentioned in the distribution lists of numerous documents. The Board of Directors has carefully examined to what extent personnel-related measures should be taken. It is aware that this is a sensitive issue. The Board of Directors has therefore decided to make the following distinction: it lacks the necessary confidence to continue working with persons holding particular responsibility who have either been involved in the system or who have not intervened despite the numerous indications over the years. The Board of Directors expects all other members of staff to exercise more critical attention from now on – starting with the Board of Directors itself.
Restoring lost confidence in the long term is only possible with a new operational management team at PostBus and at Swiss Post Group. The Board of Directors is therefore dismissing all the members of the PostBus Executive Board with immediate effect.
Measures have also been taken at the highest management level at Swiss Post: due to the findings of the investigation reports, there is no basis of trust to continue working with CEO Susanne Ruoff. In view of these circumstances, the CEO has tendered her resignation. Susanne Ruoff has been released from her duties with immediate effect. The Group will be managed by deputy CEO Ulrich Hurni on an ad interim basis. The search for a permanent replacement has already begun. The Head of Internal Auditing will also leave Swiss Post. For all persons released from their duties, the variable salary elements will be retained until all investigations have been completed.
The Board of Directors has also decided to change the auditing company for the 2019 financial year. The relevant preparatory measures have already been initiated and requested from the owner. This change is another way to help ensure a new start and restore trust.
Furthermore, the Board of Directors already requested the owner at an earlier date not to grant discharge for 2017 in respect of the incidents relating to subsidy payments to PostBus companies.
Transparency for the public
The public can now form its own impression of the facts identified regarding irregular accounting practices. As announced by Urs Schwaller at the beginning of March 2018, the enquiry report and evaluation by the group of experts have been made available to the public with immediate effect. “All the injured parties, the public and members of staff have the right to expect that the full circumstances are brought to light”, says Urs Schwaller. “That is part of my promise to establish transparency, which is the only way in which we can rebuild trust in Swiss Post”. The Board of Directors is taking these measures in the knowledge that the legal judgement of events is not yet complete. The investigation was conducted merely by examining the documents available, without interviewing or questioning the parties concerned. The administrative criminal proceedings by the Federal Office of Police (fedpol) did not authorize the necessary clarifications and hearings. All the appraisal elements in the reports are therefore based solely on the documentary proof available. The relevant points are marked accordingly in the publication. On completion of the legal appraisal, the Board of Directors however explicitly reserves the right to examine the issues of directors’ and officers’ liability and liability for damages.
The Board of Directors received relevant statements from the incriminated parties in view of the publication of the findings. Naturally, elements can always be judged differently from a subjective point of view and perception. “Because of the scope of the events and the evidence alone, the basis of trust with the persons now released from their duties has been lost.”
Urs Schwaller: “This is only the very beginning of a new start”
As far as the Swiss Post Board of Directors is concerned, these measures are not yet sufficient. “This is only the very beginning of the new start, it represents the starting point of a long journey towards a new management culture in all Group units, based on honesty, openness and trust. The fact that misconduct of this kind became established in the first place, and that it was made possible by everyone up to highest management levels, is incompatible with a healthy corporate culture”, says Urs Schwaller. The Board of Directors considers itself responsible for monitoring the implementation of measures carefully and closely to ensure that a scandal of this kind can never happen again.
Finally, the Board of Directors explicitly welcomes the administrative criminal proceedings announced by the Federal Office of Police (fedpol). “We will continue to support fedpol in its work without reservation”, emphasizes Urs Schwaller. “We hope that results will soon be available in order to clarify criminal issues.”
Léa Wertheimer, Head of Swiss Post Media Unit, email@example.com, 058 341 00 00