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By Oliver Hirt
ZURICH (Reuters) - Crisis-ridden Credit Suisse is going on the offensive under new Chairman Antonio Horta-Osorio by providing free services for investors in collapsed supply chain finance funds linked to Greensill, a person familiar with the situation told Reuters.
"This is a gesture of goodwill," the insider said.
Switzerland's second-biggest bank plans to refund fees on most products and services to clients on a quarterly basis, the person said. This would cover standard brokerage fees as well as discretionary mandate fees, investment advisory fees and banking services.
Fund of funds from other providers, for example, are excluded from the fee waiver. It was not yet clear how long the offer will last or how much it will ultimately cost.
The bank's $10 billion in funds linked to Greensill imploded in March when insurance cover lapsed, pushing the financing group into insolvency.
Credit Suisse has been working with advisers to help recoup the funds, some $7.0 billion of which had been recovered by the end of September.
Many clients who were sold the Greensill funds as products with a manageable risk reacted angrily, and some have taken legal action. Analysts have estimated the possible legal costs at $2 billion.
"Credit Suisse acknowledges that this has been a difficult period for investors in the Supply Chain Finance funds. We continue to make good progress on recovering cash both from obligors and via insurance claims; however, recovery from the focus areas will take time to achieve," the bank said.
"We have therefore also been actively engaging with our clients in recent months to explore possible measures that would improve their situation. We have taken their feedback on board, explored the viability of a number of scenarios and, starting with clients in Switzerland, we are now able to grant special conditions as a gesture of our commitment to these important relationships," it added in a statement.
"FREE OPTION" The bank is launching the fee waiver programme on Wednesday for clients whose accounts are booked in Switzerland, the source said. The offer will then be broadened out to other regions. The programme will cover the Switzerland, Asia-Pacific and International Wealth Management divisions for now.
Management fees on the Greensill funds themselves have already been waived since March.
Clients participating in the programme would not have to forego legal action, but would have to agree that any gain from legal action will be reduced by the amount of the reimbursement received.
"Essentially, this is a free option," the source said.
Customers who had already initiated legal proceedings were excluded from the programme. Reuters reported in March that the bank was considering compensating customers hit by the funds' collapse given the reputational damage and possible lawsuits. The funds' shares were held by around 1,000 professional investors and super-rich customers among the bank's core clientele. But the bank refrained from directly compensating clients for fear of setting a precedent.
The bank has informed Swiss watchdog FINMA about the plan to waive the fees for clients. FINMA initiated formal proceedings against Credit Suisse over Greensill in March. Police also searched the bank's offices and confiscated documents last month in a probe the bank said was not directed against Credit Suisse.
Credit Suisse has commissioned its own investigation into the Greensill disaster. It is not known when the report will be published.
A report in July on a second debacle, the collapse of investment fund Archegos Capital that cost the bank $5.5 billion, was scathing.
Horta-Osorio wants to announce by year's end what impact the two incidents will have on its strategy and structure.
(Reporting by Oliver Hirt, writing by Michael Shields)