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SLC's Swiss owner under investigation; steps down "temporarily" from Holcim board

Thomas Schmidheiny has stepped down "temporarily" from the board of cement giant Holcim while he is being investigated by Spanish authorities for possible insider trading violations, according to The Financial Times of London. The Swiss billionaire controls a majority of the voting shares of the company, which is St. Lawrence Cement's parent corporation.

According to the report, the investigation "is also likely to refocus attention on corporate
governance at Holcim, whose antiquated two-tier share structure allows Mr. Schmidheiny to control 57.4 per cent of the votes while owning only 27.3 per cent of the capital."

The article continues: "The investigation is an embarrassing blow for Thomas Schmidheiny, whose grandfather founded Holcim in 1912. He is stepping down following an investigation by CNMV, Spain's stock market watchdog.... The Spanish investigation is likely to refuel concerns about the state of corporate governance in Switzerland, where a small group of powerful business figures have traditionally shared the same boardroom tables."

The FT also notes that this is just the most recent of Schmidheiny's public embarrassments: "He was a member of the boards of SAirGroup, parent of Swissair, and Credit Suisse, which shared three directors with SAirGroup. Following the bankruptcy of Switzerland's national airline, Mr Schmidheiny resigned from the boards of SAirGroup and Credit Suisse. He has also resigned from the board of Think Tools, a Swiss high-tech company whose over-hyped IPO led to heavy losses among investors."