Swiss Swatch CEO upset over NSA spying

The CEO of Swiss watchmaker Swatch has slammed the United States for its international surveillance program, charging the spying practices can cause “huge damage” to his company. 

Swatch chief Nick Hayek made the comment in a letter to New York state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli in December. His department oversees the state’s pension fund, which holds 66,000 Swatch shares.

DiNapoli’s office released the letters this week.  

“As you claim you are an investor with Swatch Group you should be equally preoccupied about what has been publicized lately: the massive collection of data of the NSA worldwide including Switzerland,” Hayek wrote. 

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His comments come on the heels of a slew of European leaders who have expressed outrage over the National Security Agency’s spying program abroad. Documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden have revealed the U.S. has monitored communications of a few dozen world leaders and foreign citizens. 

“The integrity of our internal confidential information is key to develop successful products,” Hayek continued in the letter. “The practices that apparently have become a habit from organizations like the NSA can create huge damage to our company and our shareholders.”

“As an investor, you should have all interest to speak up loud about such potentially damaging practices coming from the USA," he said. 

Hayek’s message was a response to a letter DiNapoli had originally sent late last year to Swatch and nine other companies who are corporate sponsors of the winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. 

DiNapoli had asked the companies to come out against Russia’s anti-gay law, which bans propaganda that promotes homosexuality.

“In February, the world’s attention will be directed to Sochi. While businesses choose to become Olympic sponsors in order to enhance their corporate reputation, sponsorship of the Sochi Games could have the opposite effect, absent an affirmative disassociation from Russia’s state-sponsored campaign to deny human rights to its Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) citizens,” DiNapoli wrote to them. 

The other companies included McDonald's, Visa, Dow Chemical, Coca-Cola, General Electric, Atos, Samsung, Panasonic, and Proctor & Gamble.

Hayek appeared to disregard DiNapoli’s request and suggested Swatch would remain politically neutral for the games, which begin Thursday. 

“Omega [Swatch] is official Time keeper of the Olympics since 1932, Hayek wrote, “not a sponsor like most of the others.”