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The ”banker and gentleman” lives in Lugano
MILAN – The Swiss newspapers renamed him ”a banker and a gentleman”, dedicating him several first pages. But beyond all hagiographies, Fabrizio Cerina is the protagonist in an uncommon – if not even unique – case: he repaid at 100% , plus the interests, all creditors and customers of Attel & Co. (a bank in Lugano owned by Attel Finance, of which he is the president and the majority shareholder) that Cerina himself put in voluntary liquidation.
Instead of the short cut of the ”concordato moratorio” – by which the creditors are reimbursed at only 10-15% – the banker chose a way that he defines ”more expensive but honourable”: in three successive moments, he put at the disposal of the liquidators the 45 billion of Italian liras needed to plug the ”hole” caused by an employee to the Lugano subsidiary company of his Group. And last week, less than one year after the beginning of the affair, all clients were reimbursed. It is the first time that such a thing happens in the history of Swiss finance, and probably in that of Europe’s as well. ”In Switzerland they were surprised -says Cerina, 40 years old, born in Parma, leader of a group with net assets of 60 million dollars – but I think I only did my duty”. It is also to consider that the full reimbursement will produce a positive return on the image of the Group, whose main activity is the acquisition of participations in banking and finance: a demonstration of soundness that provides an excellent visiting card, a guarantee of credibility, which is particularly important in this moment of Attel’s full expansion. The operations in progress are many, while the process of privatisations in Italy is followed with great interest. Attel is ready to stand as a candidate for holdings in the banking sector, firmly persuaded that ”if the dismissions will be made seriously, there will be very good opportunities”. The incident en route was therefore overcome without serious damages. The bomb exploded in September, 1992, when Cerina discovered that one of the managers of the Lugano subsidiary was responsible for the huge loss. The lost money was used by the unfaithful manager for some reckless investments, all of them badly ended, in US securities.