Bär & Karrer has installed new leadership for its investigations practice, setting the stage for the continued success of a group that represents leading Swiss financial and other institutions in high-profile matters.
Switzerland-based Bär & Karrer is a 170-lawyer strong corporate law firm operating out of five offices across Switzerland. Its investigations practice began in the 1990s when Andreas Länzlinger, who is still a partner in the firm, helped trace the stolen assets of Holocaust victims being held by Swiss banks. Since then, the firm has established itself as a big player in the Swiss investigations market.
Länzlinger previously served for the Swiss government as a public prosecutor, a judge and an investigating judge for the Swiss army. He has acted for financial institutions in high-profile foreign tax settlements. Another lawyer who has powered the growth of the practice is Eric Stupp, who has a significant overseas regulatory defence practice and is also the vice-chairman of the board of directors at Goldman Sachs’s Swiss subsidiary.
The firm has four Who’s Who Legal: Investigations including Länzlinger, Stupp and fellow Zurich partner Joel Fischer. Geneva partner Saverio Lembo also made the cut. Lembo and Stupp were additionally named as Who’s Who Legal: Business Crime Defence nominees alongside Andrew Garbinski and Anne Valérie Julen Berthod.
Lembo co-chairs the white-collar crime group from Geneva. His expertise is often called on when internal investigations have top company executives in their scope. He also represents various sporting bodies in cross-border investigations.
Garbinski, a specialist in complex financial crime and asset recovery matters, was appointed to the Swiss Justice Ministry’s working group on modernising the country’s administrative criminal law system. In July 2022, he was appointed co-chair of the white-collar crime practice. At the same time, the firm announced the promotion of Fischer to co-leader of the crisis management and international investigations practice.
The firm recently earned its way onto the GIR Awards shortlist for boutique or regional firm of the year, for its work for SBM Offshore. Swiss prosecutors fined the oil company for bribery offences, GIR reported. The Office of the Attorney General penalised the company for failing to prevent illicit payments made between 2005 and 2012.
The firm’s prowess in Switzerland is exemplified by it being instructed by two of football’s biggest organisations in connection to one of the world’s most famous corruption scandals in recent years.
GIR reported in 2019 that Fifa had swapped out rival firm Niederer Kraft Frey in favour of Bär & Karrer to represent the organisation in a corruption investigation by Brooklyn federal prosecutors and the Swiss Office of the Attorney General (OAG) into allegations of corruption by executives within the world football body.
Lembo and Anne Berthod represented the South American Football Confederation (Conmebol) in relation to the Swiss Office of the Attorney General’s (OAG) recovery of 36 million Swiss francs ($40 million) from two former Conmebol executives in connection with alleged corruption. The OAG said in October 2020 that it planned to return the money to Conmebol after seizing the Swiss-held funds of the organisation’s former president and its general secretary.
The firm often partners with US firms to assist companies facing DOJ investigations with a Swiss dimension. It recently acted for insurer Swiss Life alongside US counsel at Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz in a $77 million deferred prosecution agreement that the company reached with the US Justice Department in May after admitting that it conspired with US citizens to evade tax by hiding assets in offshore accounts.
Bär & Karrer has five offices across Switzerland in Zurich, Geneva, Lugano, Zug and Basel, as well as an extensive international network of correspondent law firms.
The firm has a number of sporting clients including Fifa and Comnebol in high-profile cases. Bär & Karrer has also acted for many Swiss and other financial institutions including PKB Privatbank and Israeli banking group Bank Leumi.
The firm handled the US criminal tax case against Swiss bank UBS that eventually led to the creation of the DOJ’s Swiss bank programme, which allowed Swiss lenders to resolve US criminal cases provided they undertook a series of measures, including paying a monetary penalty and providing US authorities with a list of all accounts linked to US parties.
In the case, UBS agreed to pay $780 million in 2009 to settle tax fraud charges brought by the DOJ and SEC. Four years later, the DOJ announced the Swiss bank programme. Since then, more than 80 financial institutions have resolved US tax investigations through the programme.
The bank had previously tapped the firm in 2003 to conduct an internal investigation into potential wrongdoing linked to its money transfers. In 2004, the US Federal Reserve fined the bank US$100 million for processing US-dollar transactions with countries subject to US sanctions, such as Cuba.
In another major financial institution investigation, Bär & Karrer carried out an internal investigation in 2015 for Basler Kantonalbank into the bank’s potential involvement in one of the largest fraud cases in Swiss history. The fraud, which was carried out by an external asset manager, caught out over 500 victims who lost around 300 million Swiss francs.
Bär & Karrer was one of the first Swiss law firms in Switzerland which had a dedicated internal investigations team and remains recognised as one of the market leaders for this practice area. The Practice group consists of approximately 35 lawyers who primarily work in this field. The high degree of integration of the team gives Bär & Karrer a competitive edge whenever large-scale and complex investigations must be planned and rolled out.
What sets us apart:
The practice team at Bär & Karrer has gained extensive experience in leading and conducting internal investigations in corporates across various industries, such as banking, insurance, pharmaceutical, technology, manufacturing and infrastructure over the course of many years. We offer a combination of experience in corporate governance, compliance organisation and processes, regulatory, and white-collar crime related matters, including the handling of cooperation activities with domestic and foreign authorities.
While independence is a key requirement, our investigators are business-minded, with a view on industry specific business practices and processes. Our investigation activities are structured in a target-oriented and efficient manner. This enables the client to identify issues for remediation both during and after the investigation. Our role and mission are to integrate the efficient management of internal and external resources so that the investigation is cost and time efficient. We use advanced technology for mass data management.
- General areas of the Bär & Karrer investigations practice include:
- Guidance on Corporate Governance matters
- Advice on the planning and conducting of internal investigations at board and management level
- Conducting and managing internal investigations
- Advice on compliance organisation matters, policies and processes
- Representation of corporate clients in administrative (regulatory) and criminal proceedings
- Advice relating to compliance related internal sanctions and other remediation measures
About Bär & Karrer:
Bär & Karrer is a leading Swiss law firm with more than 200 lawyers in Zurich, Geneva, Lugano, Zug and Basel. The firm’s core business is advising clients on innovative and complex transactions and representing them in litigation, arbitration and regulatory proceedings. Bär & Karrer was repeatedly awarded "Switzerland Law Firm of the Year" by the most important international legal ranking agencies in recent years.
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