GIR 100 2020

Niederer Kraft Frey

Professional notice

The firm has one of Switzerland’s largest white-collar outfits and it is regularly tapped by major banks in the country to conduct internal investigations into a variety of possible misconduct.

The firm

Niederer Kraft Frey (NKF) is a full-service law firm, with over 100 lawyers who advise an international client base from its office in Zurich.

The firm’s investigations practice consists of ten partners who work on all types of white-collar and investigations matters for clients based in Switzerland or abroad.

Of counsel Peter Honegger is a veteran of the firm who has represented a number of Swiss and foreign companies, including UBS and car manufacturer BMW. His areas of expertise include Swiss secrecy laws, and the disclosure of evidence located in Switzerland for use in foreign proceedings.

Partner Philipp Candreia primarily represents clients in the financial industry and is currently active in several internal investigations in connection with proceedings by Swiss and foreign authorities.

Partner Sandro Abegglen handles banking regulation cases and advised the Swiss government on the draft bill of the Swiss Financial Services Act, which is set to enter into force in 2020. François Bianchi is another banking and white-collar lawyer who regularly represents financial institutions in proceedings before the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (Finma).

Partners Daniel Eisele and Tamir Livschitz have conducted a number of internal investigations in Switzerland for large organisations, including world football body Fifa and Swiss childcare service company Globegarden.

The firm promoted Juerg Bloch, who has experience acting in cross-border investigations involving both Swiss and foreign authorities, to partner in January 2020. He is featured in Who’s Who Legal: Investigations and GIR’s 40 under 40 in 2020.

Recent events

Companies regularly call in the firm to look into potential misconduct. Eisele conducted an internal investigation in 2020 for a Swiss financial institution that is focused on its sale of structured financial products, while Livschitz is looking into possible anti-money laundering breaches for a Swiss bank after the country’s financial regulator opened enforcement proceedings over the matter. 

The firm’s biggest case in the public eye is its representation of EFG Bank (formerly BSI Bank) together with Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan in ongoing investigations by US and Swiss prosecutors into whether the bank played a role in the 1MDB embezzlement scandal. Authorities in both countries estimate that approximately US$4.5 billion was embezzled from the sovereign wealth fund.

In May 2016, Finma fined BSI US$96 million for breaches of money laundering and gross misconduct at the bank’s Singaporean branch related to the 1MDB scandal. That same month, the Monetary Authority of Singapore fined the bank US$13.3 million and withdrew the bank’s merchant bank status.

The firm also has extensive experience acting for individuals. Its highest profile public matter is its work for Martin Egli, the chairman and founding partner of Swisspartners in a US-Swiss tax dispute that began in 2015, after Egli provided the DOJ with client data outside the channels of mutual assistance. The Swiss Attorney General’s Office alleges that this kind of cooperation is a violation of Swiss law and has charged Egli with violating the country’s blocking statute. Although the Swiss Federal Criminal Court acquitted Egli in 2018, the matter is currently before the Swiss Supreme Court.

Network

The firm is based in Zurich and counts Swiss law firms Erni Caputo and Schellenberg Wittmer among its regional co-counsel. International firms in NKF’s international network include S Horovitz & Co in Tel Aviv and Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman in New York.

Clients

NKF has a large number of banks on its client list, including EFG Bank, UBS and Credit Suisse. It has also acted for Fifa and car manufacturer BMW.

Track record

The firm advised BSI Bank in its US$211 million settlement with the Justice Department in 2015 – the first of over 80 Swiss banks to sign a non-prosecution agreement with the US Department of Justice under the Swiss Bank Program. The programme, which began in 2013, allowed certain Swiss banks to avoid prosecution for helping US citizens evade tax if they paid a fine and agreed to cooperate with the agency.

Between 2013 and 2017, NKF represented financial institution UBS when a client of the bank, a wealthy Italian family, was investigated by authorities in Switzerland, Italy and Jersey regarding allegations of crimes against public safety and corruption.

NKF represented Fifa since 2015, alongside Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan as US counsel, as the US Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York and the Office of the Attorney General in Switzerland conducted investigations into allegations of corruption by executives within the world footballing body. GIR reported in 2019 that Fifa had swapped out NKF for rival Swiss firm Bär & Karrer to represent the organisation in ongoing corruption investigations by US and Swiss authorities.

Established in 1936, Niederer Kraft Frey is a leading Swiss firm with a consistent track record of delivering excellence and innovation in Swiss law. With a strong domestic and international client base, NKF is relied on by the world’s best law firms as an experienced, agile and effective partner.

NKF is a full-service law firm with over 100 lawyers advising in 12 languages. We are pragmatic generalists with deep industry knowledge and specialist legal expertise covering the entire spectrum of business, corporate and finance law. We work creatively with each other, our partner firms and with our clients to deliver efficient, sustainable solutions in the face of the most complex problems. Quality service is our priority. The focus of our business is the business of our clients. With offices in the heart of Zurich’s banking and financial district, NKF continues to have its finger on the pulse of Swiss business.

NKF’s investigations and enforcement lawyers have broad experience in conducting transnational, multi-jurisdictional internal regulatory and white-collar crime investigations as well as in defending clients in governmental investigations, enforcement proceedings by Swiss and foreign supervisory authorities, and related civil disputes.

We give strategic legal advice on sensitive matters, anti-money laundering, regulatory misconduct, employee wrongdoing, fraud prevention and detection, banking secrecy breaches, bribery and kickbacks, insider trading and market manipulation, tax evasion issues, competition law/antitrust, compliance violations, cybercrime and sanctions matters. We typically advise our clients at group general counsel, CEO and board-member level.

Apart from complex regulatory aspects, our lawyers have a profound understanding of the technical challenges and possibilities of artificial intelligence capabilities used in investigations. We maintain established professional relationships with related service providers such as forensic and cybercrime experts, accountants and auditors. We are well aware of the investigative methods used by regulators and criminal prosecutors and have excellent insight into relevant regulators, prosecutors and similar authorities.

A number of our lawyers hold distinct memberships in professional organisations such as the International Compliance Association (ICA) and the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) by which they have been accredited as certified fraud examiner.

Experience includes:

  • Representing financial institutions, corporate organisations and their executives in regulatory enforcement proceedings
  • Assisting and representing in large-scale internal, cross-border, multi-jurisdictional financial services regulatory investigations
  • Establishing compliance programmes for bribery and kick-back regulations as well as fraud prevention and detection, and employee misconduct
  • Representing corporates and individuals in insider trading and market manipulation investigations or enforcement proceedings
  • Supporting clients in connection with Swiss blocking statutes, banking secrecy, data protection issues, anti-money laundering and sanctions matters.

Get unlimited access to all Global Investigations Review content