BERN — Switzerland’s upper house of parliament voted on Tuesday to retrospectively approve 109 billion Swiss francs ($120.5 billion) in financial guarantees used to rescue Credit Suisse after a heated debate.
The Swiss parliament had recalled lawmakers for a rare extraordinary session to discuss the rapid rescue of Credit Suisse as well as the government’s open checkbook response.
A shotgun marriage which saw Credit Suisse taken over by Zurich-based rival UBS for 3 billion Swiss francs and propped up with more than 250 billion Swiss francs in guarantees and support has been the subject of widespread criticism.
But 29 of Switzerland’s 46-member Council of States approved the measure. The Swiss parliament’s lower house is scheduled to vote on the matter later on Tuesday in a session likely to go until midnight local time (2200 GMT).
The votes are, however, largely symbolic as the state has committed the funds and lawmakers cannot overturn that decision.
In the lead-up to the merger last month, Swiss emergency law was used so that a sub-group of six members of parliament approved the financial commitment on behalf of the legislative body, to the ire of the almost 250 lawmakers left without a say.
“The use of emergency law has reached a level in the last three years that is beginning to annoy me,” said Hansjoerg Knecht, a member of Parliament’s upper house.
Calling the situation where the legislative body can only approve the already committed credits “unsatisfactory,” Knecht said if Credit Suisse were to require more cash, there should be no use of emergency law to bypass parliament.
‘LOTS OF QUESTIONS’
“It’s the responsibility of politics to have a say especially when such a big contribution is being made by state and emergency law is being used,” said Celine Widmer, a Swiss National Council member for the left-leaning Social Democrats.
“We have a lots of questions that need to be answered,” she told Reuters ahead of the vote.
As part of the unusual event, the third such session in more than twenty years, the Swiss parliament has a chance to challenge the rushed rescue package and discuss whether conditions can be imposed on Credit Suisse.
Last week, Switzerland announced it was cutting bonus payments for Credit Suisse’s top management.
Credit Suisse’s rescue angered not only politicians but many in Switzerland. A survey by political research firm gfs.bern found a majority of Swiss did not support the deal.
A poll of Swiss economists found that nearly half think the takeover of Credit Suisse by UBS was not the best solution, warning the saga has dented Switzerland’s reputation.
Switzerland’s KOF economic research institute found that 48% of 167 university economists questioned would have preferred a state takeover and possible later sale of Credit Suisse.
There are also growing worries about a staff cull.
In an open letter to the country’s parliament, the Swiss Bank Employees’ Association said on Tuesday that Credit Suisse and UBS must freeze any job cuts. ($1 = 0.9045 Swiss francs) (Additional reporting by John O’Donnell; Editing by Christina Fincher and Alexander Smith)
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