Michael Wolf claimed that he had himself reported the non-compliant transactions. Photo: Anders Ahlgren/SvD/TT
“If this prosecution is about that, then I myself am the whistleblower,” Wolf told Sweden's leading business newspaper Dagens Industri in an interview published on Saturday.
Wolf, ranked as 9th best executive in the world by the Harvard Business Review, was summarily sacked on Tuesday after seven years as Swedbank's chief executive.
On Friday, the bank revealed that it had also reported him to the Financial Supervisory Authority after identifying “transactions that ‘can be assumed to’ constitute criminal offences”.
In the interview, Wolf conceded that he had made an error, making private investments in companies on a list of firms Swedbank's senior executives are barred from investing in to ensure compliance with insider trading rules.
He said that bank’s procedures had changed in August 2015, and that executives in Swedbank’s private banking division had mistakenly bought shares for his pension portfolio which had been on the bank's “stop list”.
The transactions were sent to the bank's compliance division for approval before they were enacted, he added.
Wolf claimed that when the mistake came to light he himself had reported the deals to the bank's chairman Anders Sundström.
“I know which companies this concerns, and I made losses on them. I assume that this is what this is about.“
Wolf said that at a board meeting last week he had asked the board to give the private banking arm complete control over the management of his portfolio, so he would no longer have any knowledge or say on which shares were purchased.
“It is important for me to manage transactions in a good way and that’s why I have used the private banking division, and I am sure that I have never been close to insider dealing. I am absolutely convinced that the investigation will come to the same conclusion. “
He dismissed speculation that his sudden departure followed a falling out with Anders Sundström, the bank’s chairman.
“I was surprised that I was laid off, but it is the board’s full power to dismiss and appoint the CEO. I do not feel that I have had a conflict with Anders Sundström.”
“He has been a good chairman for me. We have shared the same vision and have had almost daily contact.”
But he said he nonetheless found the situation “incredibly unpleasant and unfair”.
“When it was just a dismissal, I didn’t feel so much about it, but this makes it different. It is important for me to defend my honour.”
Asked by Dagens Industri if he had enemies who might wish to smear him, he was tight-lipped.
“Everybody in a high-up position has friends and enemies.”