Switzerland: Churning Ou Quand La Gestion De Fortune Devient Gestion Déloyale

Last Updated: 16 November 2016
Article by Andrew M. Garbarski

Most Read Contributor in Switzerland, April 2017

Un gérant de fortune, indépendamment de son degré de transparence quant à l'activité déployée, n'est pas à l'abri de suites pénales, notamment lorsqu'il se trouve dans un conflit d'intérêts

Le gérant de fortune a l'obligation d'exécuter son mandat avec soin et de veiller fidèlement aux intérêts de son client. S'il peut arriver que le gérant soit amené en toute légitimité à multiplier les ordres d'achat ou de vente, le cas échéant sur une période relativement rapprochée (selon la stratégie de placement, instruments financiers traités, état des marchés, etc.), la situation devient en revanche beaucoup plus délicate lorsque les placements effectués par le gérant et les mouvements entrepris dans le portefeuille sont inutiles pour le client, respectivement ne présentent aucun intérêt économique pour ce dernier et visent, en réalité, à permettre au gérant d'encaisser des (rétro-) commissions au titre des transactions exécutées.

Sous le coup du droit penal

On parle alors de «churning» (ou barattage). Ce type de procédé est d'autant plus préjudiciable, dès lors que le capital investi peut rapidement se retrouver entamé, voire totalement englouti par les commissions et frais ponctionnés, notamment lorsque de très nombreuses opérations sont effectuées sur une brève période (excessive trading). Les perspectives de gain pour le client deviennent alors pratiquement illusoires. Il est depuis longtemps acquis que la pratique du churning est susceptible de tomber sous la loi pénale, notamment l'infraction de gestion déloyale (article 158 du Code pénal), car elle porte gravement atteinte aux intérêts du client. Le Tribunal fédéral a eu l'occasion de le rappeler dans le cadre d'une affaire zurichoise ayant donné lieu à un arrêt diffusé il y a quelques jours (6B_lao3/aoi5 du al.9.aoi6). En bref, une société financière s'était vue confier par un client la gestion de quelque Z34 00o dollars au total, utilisés pour du négoce de futures (contrats à terme standardisés), via une plateforme de trading d'une maison de courtage agréée auprès de la bourse de Chicago. L'activité de négoce déployée par le gérant était particulièrement intense; elle s'était traduite par la souscription d'environ a'600 contrats à terme (futures), avait généré des commissions et frais de quelque 170 00o dollars facturés par la maison de courtage (mais dont la majorité avait in fine été rétrocédée au gérant de fortune) et débouché sur une perte de USD 64'000.- due aux aléas du marché. Le capital investi par le client avait été consommé en trois mois, passant de a34000 dollars à 459 dollars. Saisi d'un recours du ministère public zurichois, le Tribunal fédéral a annulé l'acquittement prononcé en appel par l'Obergericht de Zurich à la faveur du principal animateur de la société financière précitée et de son collaborateur subalterne, qui avait principalement joué le rôle d'apporteur d'affaires.

Les leçons à tirer

Les considérants du Tribunal fédéral apportent un éclairage utile sur plusieurs aspects qui sont susceptibles de se retrouver dans d'autres affaires de gestion de fortune. Voici les principaux enseignements à en tirer: - il est fondamentalement légitime pour un acteur de la finance de vouloir obtenir des commissions, mais pas au mépris des intérêts du client; au-delà du montant (absolu) des commissions encaissées par le gérant de fortune, c'est surtout le nombre excessif de transactions exécutées qui peut poser problème, notamment lorsque lesdites commissions ont pour effet de consommer le capital investi et empêchent de fait toute fructification ce celui-ci; - pour dire s'il y a churning, l'examen doit porter sur l'activité du gérant considérée dans son ensemble. Dès lors, même si certaines transactions, prises isolément, se seraient révélées profitables pour le client, cela est dénué de pertinence; - le fait que le client ait accepté, voire voulu une stratégie de placement qu'il savait spéculative et risquée est tout autant dénué de pertinence sous l'angle du churning et ne constitue pas un blanc-seing en faveur du gérant; - même si le client reçoit régulièrement des relevés qui lui permettent de suivre l'évolution de son portefeuille et qu'il ne réagit pas (voire procède à des avances de fonds supplémentaires!), on ne saurait en déduire qu'il a approuvé le fait que les fonds investis soient, en grande partie, consommés par les commissions prélevées; - seul le consentement donné par le client avant chaque opération pourrait, éventuellement, faire échec à l'infraction de gestion déloyale, mais un tel scénario ne semble guère réaliste en présence de churning. Cela supposerait, par ailleurs, que ce dernier connaisse la structure des commissions prélevées, y compris s'agissant d'éventuelles rétrocessions payées au gérant; -1 a légèreté ou le manque de prudence du client est sans incidence sur la réalisation de la gestion déloyale, contrairement à l'escroquerie. Cette dernière jurisprudence démontre qu'un gérant de fortune, indépendamment de son degré de transparence quant à l'activité déployée, n'est pas à l'abri de suites pénales, notamment lorsqu'il se trouve dans un conflit d'intérêts, situation qui doit être absolument proscrite.

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