Swiss Regulator Lifts Ban on Large Scale M&A for Julius Baer

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Julius Baer Group Ltd. can again consider large acquisitions after the Swiss regulator lifted a ban imposed a little over a year ago to punish it for failings in money-laundering controls.

The Zurich-based bank “has been informed by FINMA that it is formally lifting the ban imposed in February 2020 on the execution of acquisitions that lead to a significant increase in operating risks and in organizational complexity,” according to a statement from the firm on Wednesday.

Under former Chief Executive Officer Boris Collardi, Julius Baer bought the international operations of Bank of America Merrill Lynch and made nearly a dozen small acquisitions, particularly in Latin America, doubling the money it oversaw in the process.

The breakneck expansion came at a cost. In 2018 one of Baer’s recently-departed high-flying bankers was arrested in Miami and later convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison for his role in laundering money for Petroleos de Venezuela SA, Venezuela’s state-owned oil company.

The Swiss bank was still allowed to make smaller purchases during the ban.

The watchdog will continue to monitor Julius Baer’s implementation of the required measures, the bank said.

“Julius Baer welcomes the lifting of the ban on complex acquisitions given the significant progress the bank has made in strengthening its company-wide risk management, particularly with regard to money laundering prevention,” it said in the statement.

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