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PEOPLE - Options And Consequences

Switzerland, long famed for its bank secrecy, now has the strictest disclosure laws in Europe -- at least when it comes to owning stock options.

Switzerland, long famed for its bank secrecy, now has the strictest disclosure laws in Europe -- at least when it comes to owning stock options. As of July 1, investors must disclose not only their stock holdings but also their options positions when they reach 5 percent of the market capitalization of a company, and the Swiss parliament is looking to lower that threshold to 3 percent. For these changes, thank Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, 50, whose recent market maneuverings have created a furor. In April he and Victory, an investment fund controlled by Austrians Ronny Pecik and Georg Stumpf, announced that they had amassed a 31.4 percent stake in Swiss engineering icon Sulzer, largely using options contracts. "Speculators have started to take over," fumed Swiss newspaper Der Tagesanzeiger. Then last month Vekselberg, who moved to Zurich in 2004 after earning the bulk of his $10 billion fortune in Russia's aluminum and oil industries, bought out Victory's undisclosed stake in Everest, the corporate vehicle holding the Sulzer shares. Vekselberg wouldn't comment on the transaction or the controversy surrounding his use of options, but a spokesman says that the Russian's purchase of the Sulzer stake was "proof that Vekselberg is a long-term constructive partner for the companies he invests in."