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Widow of Zurich CFO rejects results of report into his suicide

Fabienne Wauthier, widow of Zurich Insurance finance chief Pierre Wauthier reacts as she addresses the company's annual shareholder meeting
Fabienne Wauthier, widow of Zurich Insurance finance chief Pierre Wauthier reacts as she addresses the company's annual shareholder meeting

ZURICH (Reuters) - The widow of Zurich Insurance's late finance chief on Wednesday rejected a report into his suicide, telling the Swiss company's annual shareholder meeting she could not accept the findings of an investigation into his death.

Zurich Insurance defended the report into Pierre Wauthier's suicide, deflecting criticism by the CFO's widow and his family members, who also spoke at the meeting.

Fabienne Wauthier, dressed in black, said her family could not accept the results of probe, which exonerated the insurer and its former chairman Josef Ackermann of responsibility.

"We cannot accept your conclusion that his suicide was unaccountable," Wauthier told the packed meeting.

Her criticisms serve as a painful reminder of Wauthier's death for the 142-year old Swiss company, that has spent the last seven months trying to reassure investors and move on.

Wauthier killed himself last August, leaving behind a suicide note in which he described himself as demoralized because of a new, aggressive tone at Zurich under then-chairman Ackermann.

Ackermann stepped down several days later, but has denied responsibility for what he called a "very tragic event". He declined to comment through a spokesman on Wednesday.

An investigation into Wauthier's death, commissioned by Switzerland's financial regulator FINMA and conducted by law firm Homburger, found no indication that the CFO was subjected to any undue or inappropriate pressure, Zurich said in November.

Wauthier was joined on the podium at the annual meeting by her daughter Laura and the mother and brother of her late husband.

Wauthier and Pierre's mother Ingrid, at times fighting to control their emotions, took turns to read from a statement.

Pierre's brother Michel, who also spoke, said: "It was not normal pressure at the office that led to his suicide."

Wauthier, who is French, also said she was returning her husband's laptop, which she said had not been examined by investigators.

She had also spoken of her concerns about the review into her husband's death in an interview with Reuters.

Zurich Chairman Tom de Swaan paused for several seconds at the podium before repeating that the insurer had no indication Wauthier would commit suicide, and defending what he called a comprehensive review into whether the CFO had come under any undue pressure.

"The FINMA-led investigation found no indication of any such pressure," de Swaan said.

De Swaan, who assumed the role of chairman in September after Ackermann's resignation, was re-elected by 89.7 percent of shareholders in a vote at the meeting.

The work of the company's board and management in 2013 was also approved by shareholders, garnering 98.8 percent of votes.

(Reporting by Alice Baghdjian, Katharina Bart and Paul Arnold; Editing by Noah Barkin and Jane Merriman)

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