In January 2013, Jean-François de Clermont-Tonnerre discovered that his business partner had committed a massive fraud at Hottinger & Partners (HPSA), the investment firm they ran. Five years after this discovery, and after Jean-François de Clermont-Tonnerre was declared innocent of any involvement by a Luxembourg court, we return to the facts.
Fabien Gaglio, a forty-year-old French wealth manager who had previously worked at Morgan Stanley and Rothschild bank, ran a large-scale fraud for years, even producing counterfeit financial statements for his clients. In July 2016, the 18th Criminal Court of Luxembourg sentenced Fabien Gaglio to five years in prison for stealing about 7.7 million euros.
Day 1: It all Started with California
At the Hottinger & Partners headquarters employees were preparing end-of-year accounting reports for the bank’s supervisory body.
It was late afternoon when an employee received an email from one of Gaglio’s Californian clients. It was a simple request for clarification on certain positions managed by H CTG, a Luxembourg subsidiary of HPSA. Upon comparing the customer’s statement with the information held by the bank, a huge gap was noticed. The difference was two million euros.
The discrepancy was taken to Jean-François de Clermont-Tonnerre, who called Fabien Gaglio to ask for an explanation. Gaglio told his business partner that he’d call back later with an explanation.
Day 2: Fabien Gaglio goes Silent
The next day, Fabien Gaglio still hadn’t picked up his phone to offer an explanation. On January 4th 2013, Jean François de Clermont-Tonnerre put the HPSA team to work checking if there were any other anomalies in client statements. Hottinger & Partners managed 600 million Swiss francs in assets (515 million euros). The task ahead was daunting.
Day 3 to 5: A Race Against the Clock
After checking a few client statements, the HPSA team discovered yet more anomalies and Jean-François de Clermont-Tonnerre ordered the team to continue their research and dig deeper. As the scale of the problem became apparent, Clermont-Tonnerre called in lawyers and warned Hottinger Bank, HPSA’s parent, of the issue. “We realized very quickly that the task was much too heavy and we didn’t understand all the ramifications” said Jean-François de Clermont-Tonnerre. He therefore employed the specialist forensic accounting division of Deloitte to complete a full audit.
Days 6 and 7: End of the Line
“Customers didn’t understand what was going on,” said Clermont-Tonnerre. “We had tonnes of customer statements that did not match our information. We realized then that the problem was really Fabien Gaglio.” After seven days of hell, Jean-François de Clermont-Tonnerre filed a complaint to the Swiss and Luxembourg authorities. Fabien Gaglio finally surrendered to the authorities on January 15th 2013.
To date, Jean-François de Clermont-Tonnerre has not only been declared innocent by the Luxembourg court but also included as a civil party in the action against Gaglio. The Swiss part of the case is still under investigation.