Credit Suisse Overruled Risk Managers on Greensill Loan

Credit Suisse Group AG brushed off concerns from some risk managers about a $140 million loan to Greensill Capital that the bank extended a few months before the trade finance firm collapsed.

Risk managers at Credit Suisse’s investment bank in London were initially reluctant to grant the request, according to a person familiar with the matter. They then discussed the matter with their counterparts in the Swiss and Asian private banking units, and the bank’s risk chief Lara Warner signed off on the loan in October, the person said, asking not to be identified in discussing internal information.

A spokesperson for Credit Suisse declined to comment. The Financial Times reported earlier that London-based risk managers were overruled on the loan, which the newspaper put at $160 million, and that Warner had signed off on the transaction.

Credit Suisse fell as much as 4.7% in early Friday trading. The shares have lost about 10% since the bank’s relationship with Greensill started to unravel two weeks ago.

The bank’s risk-taking has come under scrutiny after a number of missteps in the past year, some of them linked to high-profile clients. The bank pursues a strategy of deepening relationships with its richest customers, typically entrepreneurs whose companies do business with the investment banking unit while the wealth management divisions oversee their personal finances.

Early last year, Credit Suisse was among lenders exposed to Luckin Coffee Inc., the onetime challenger to Starbucks. The bank had praised founder Lu Zhengyao as the poster child for its strategy, arranged the company’s initial public offering and lent Lu millions of dollars, but was left staring at losses when the stock imploded in an accounting fraud.

Lex Greensill, the onetime billionaire founder of Greensill Capital, also had a deep relationship with Credit Suisse and was a client of its private bank in Switzerland and Asia, the person said. Greensill Capital was running four supply chain finance funds with the bank’s asset management unit, it had a lending relationship with the bank and it was considering an IPO.

Credit Suisse Overruled Risk Managers on Greensill Loan

The bank froze the Greensill-linked funds last week and is now liquidating them, amid concerns about the valuations of some of the assets and after a major insurer of the holding declined to extend fresh coverage. Executives at the bank knew early on that a large portion of the assets in the funds were tied to Sanjeev Gupta, a Greensill client whose borrowings were at the center of a 2018 scandal at rival asset manager GAM Holding AG, Bloomberg has reported.

As of April 2018, about a third of the assets in the strategy’s flagship were linked to Gupta’s GFG Alliance companies or his customers as of April 2018, according to a filing. The exposure is across the funds now at least $1 billion to $2 billion, the FT reported, citing unidentified people with knowledge of the matter.

Analysts at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. on Thursday cut their recommendation on Credit Suisse shares to neutral, citing the shares’ rally over the past 12 months.

“Our downgrade does not reflect concern about the operating performance of Credit Suisse, or indeed its long-term prospects,” analysts Jernej Omahen and Alexandre Dupuy wrote in the report. While “operating performance did excel, non-operating items have been a persistent drag.”

Credit Suisse has temporarily replaced three managers linked to the funds. It has started an internal probe into the collapse of the funds and has sought external help to deal with queries from regulators.

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