Irish broker sued Banque Privée Edmond de Rothschild and Archimedes Private Office for €3.5 million in commission dispute

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The Banque Privée Edmond de Rothschild (BPER) headquartered in Geneva and Irish wealth managers, Archimedes Private Office (now dba as Hottinger Private Office Limited) were sued by financial adviser Waldeck in a contractual battle over fees and commissions.

The wealth of some of Ireland’s richest families and the names of who manages it for them could have come under the spotlight when the legally confused situation unfolded in the Four Courts two years ago.

The Four Courts

The Four Courts is Ireland’s main courts building, located on Inns Quay in Dublin. The Four Courts are the location of the Supreme Court, the High Court and the Dublin Circuit Court. Until 2010 the building also housed the Central Criminal Court.

Waldeck was seeking to have the case heard in Ireland rather than in Switzerland, which could lead to people learning some interesting details about the wealth of Ireland’s very rich. Archimedes Private Office pursued its own litigation against Waldeck.

The Swiss private bank, BPER, which had attracted many Irish high-net-worth investors faced a lawsuit over commissions allegedly due to its former Irish referring agent.

The suit against BPER was about commissions of €3.5 million allegedly owed to companies controlled by Juerg von Geitz, a Dublin-based mortgage broker and businessman. Balthazar and a subsidiary called Waldeck, companies linked to Juerg von Geitz, had issued High Court proceedings against BPER, Mark Robertson who was a VP at BPER at that time and Archimedes Private Office.

The controversy is centered on commissions allegedly due to Juerg von Geitz’s companies based in Ireland for introducing assets under management of up to €100 million via Mark Robertson and his corporate entities to BPER. Balthazar and Waldeck started referring high-net-worth customers to Mark Robertson as early as from November 2009, while Robertson still worked for Coutts International in Geneva.

Coutts International

Coutts is a private bank and wealth manager based in London. Founded in 1692, it is the seventh oldest bank in the world.

Since 2000, it is owned by the Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) when RBS purchased its parent, NatWest. Coutts formed part of RBS’s private banking division. During its time with RBS, it acquired Zürich-based Bank von Ernst & Cie and in 2008, Coutts Bank von Ernst and other Coutts International subsidiaries became RBS Coutts Bank. These traded as RBS Coutts International to align them with the parent RBS Group until 2011, when RBS Coutts was renamed Coutts & Co. Limited.

It was claimed that a commission agreement with Coutts was not signed because Mark Robertson moved to BPER and recommended Juerg von Geitz that he moved the customers he had introduced initially to BPER and to make a new commission deal.

The BPER deal that went wrong

BPER entered into an agency agreement with Waldeck in March 2011. Two months later, Archimedes Private Office was set up in Dublin to channel introductions and Balthazar became a consultant to Archimedes. Both the Balthazar and Waldeck contracts were terminated in 2012.

It was alleged that new customer introductions Juerg von Geitz took to the Swiss bank BPER were not credited to him or to his companies but commissions were instead rechanneled directly to Archimedes Private Office.

Archimedes Private Office was registered in Dublin on 10th June, 2011 allegedly by Mark Robertson to introduce new customers to the Swiss bank, BPER.

Archimedes Private Office and hacked emails

About the same time and embarrassingly for Archimedes, the email account of one of its principals was, according to solicitor Matheson, “unfortunately hacked” and “most of his contacts were sent a phishing email”.

This led to the emails of many of his contacts, not necessarily customers, being dispersed including the family of a retail tycoon, the chief executive of an Irish listed company, a well-known industrialist, a specialist engineering scion, a wealthy pharma baron and a race horse owning manufacturer.

Many of those in the hacked email list were part of the Sunday Independent Rich List.

Archimedes Private Office is now called Hottinger Private Office Limited

Further research shows that Archimedes Private Office has now changed its name via a merger with a bankrupt Swiss private bank affiliate, Groupe Financiere Hottinger & Co Limited, since the BPER allegations were made while minimizing it’s activities in Dublin.

The Hottinger Group, allegedly owned by Archco Limited (Malta), is headquartered in London with three local business entities as per available sources operating from the same UK address: Hottinger Investment Management Limited, Hottinger Private Office Limited and Hottinger Capital Partners (UK) Limited. Further it operates two foreign offices: an “administrative service center” for selected customers in Dublin called the Hottinger Family Office Limited (Company Number 499946) and Archimedes Private Office based in Geneva (Company Number  CHE-493.525.143).

Research within the Swiss business registry shows that the company in Geneva has changed its name several times and twice over the recent months: from Jacaranda Consultancy to Archimedes to Hottinger and then back again to Archimedes – the last change seems strange from a group perspective.

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Archco Limited is a private limited company registered in Malta. It is allegedly the holding company for the collective subsidiaries that trade as The Hottinger Group. The registered office is PwC (Malta), 93 Mill Street, Qormi, Malta while UK company records show the principal office address as Vault 14, Level 2, Valetta Waterfront, Floiana, Makta.

The current CEO of The Hottinger Group, UK is Mark Robertson and the group’s Global Ambassador is Frederic Hottinger. Mark Robertson is Director of all UK subsidiaries of the Hottinger Group.

Frederic Hottinger is a banker and business man with links to a now bankrupt Swiss bank (Hottinger & Cie, Zurich – 2015) and to a bank in the Bahamas (Lyford Bank).

A quick search on the UK company registry shows 6 UK business entities with the word Hottinger, one of which seems not related directly to the Hottinger saga. Out of the remaining 5 there are a few that are either dormant UK companies with capital of £1 or £100 or UK small business exempt from tax with capital of £1000. Even though officially running at a loss as per filed accounts, only Hottinger Investment Management Limited seems to have a proper capital from shares and has officially submitted audited accounts.

HOTTINGER & CO LIMITED : Dormant / 100 shares at £1 / Director: Mark Robertson
HOTTINGER GROUP LTD : Dormant / 1 share at £1 / Director: Mark Robertson
HOTTINGER CAPITAL PARTNERS LIMITED: Dormant / 1 share at £1 / Director: Mark Robertson
HOTTINGER PRIVATE OFFICE LIMITED: Active / 1000 shares at £1 / Director: Mark Robertson – Giles  Heseltine
HOTTINGER INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT LIMITED: Active / 1,980,000 shares at £1 / Director: Mark Robertson

As per this document Archco Limited (Malta) is the major shareholder of only Hottinger Private Office Limited (750 shares or more out of 1000 shares at £1).

According to this document Archo Limited holds all 100 shares valued at CHF200 each of Archimedes Private Office (Suisse) Sàrl as of March 2015.

No public records are available at the time of publishing this article as official proof of the other Hottinger UK or foreign entities being under the ownership of Archco Limited (Malta) as claimed.

In a press release dated 10th October, 2016 from the newly formed Hottinger Group after the merger and name change from Archimedes Private Office, the still £1 capital and dormant company, HOTTINGER GROUP LTD (Company number 09518000), proclaimed “Once the full benefits of the restructuring have been delivered the combined assets under advice and management are expected to exceed £1bn.”

Finally, in march 2016, Archimedes Private Office released a press release stating that it awarded a significant mandate worth €200 million to Lombard Odier, Switzerland  – Nice move and not a bad deal at all for a £1 capital “dormant” UK company.

About Banque Privée Edmond de Rothschild

Banque Privée Edmond de Rothschild S.A. is a private bank headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. It is exclusively dedicated to wealth management for private and institutional clients. It is today a part of Edmond de Rothschild Group. It is listed on the Swiss Stock Exchange under SIX: RLD.

The bank was founded in 1923 under the name of Banque Privée. During mid-1960s, it was bought by Baron Edmond Adolphe de Rothschild and incorporated in the LCF Rothschild Group (now Edmond de Rothschild Group). After the death of Edmond Adolphe de Rothschild in 1997, his son Baron Benjamin de Rothschild took over the management of both Banque Privée Edmond de Rothschild and Edmond de Rothschild Group. Today it is still managed by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild and his wife Ariane.

As of the end of 2013, Banque Privée Edmond de Rothschild reported a consolidated net profit of 40 million CHF and total assets under management of 106 billion CHF.

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