Stars Shot Down By Covid Culture

Fortune and fame were not enough to protect some members of the global elite from defying the Covid era's new norms.

Superstar banker António Horta-Osório, hired last summer to turn around troubled Credit Suisse, has fallen on his sword, in part over Covid-19. And he’s not the only superstar to have been caught out by new social attitudes shaped by two years of pandemic.

Following a boardroom inquiry that found him guilty of breaching Swiss and UK quarantine rules as well as excessive use of Credit Suisse corporate jets, he resigned. Credit Suisse shares fell 2.5% on the news.

Among the misbegotten jet jaunts: a trip to England for the England vs. Italy Euro 2021 football final and the tennis finals at Wimbledon, where the men’s trophy went to tennis world champion and global anti-vax poster-boy Novak Djokovic, his own reputation hit by having been deported from Australia for breaching Covid-19 restrictions.

Also at Wembley for the football match was British PM Boris Johnson. His own government had just pulled practically all Covid restrictions—even though the capacity-crowd final was expected to be a superspreader event. NHS England subsequently found nearly 2,300 fans who attended were likely to be infectious while 3,404 developed Covid-19 shortly thereafter.

Johnson received little flak at the time, but the “Least Honorable Member” is now struggling to avoid being deposed by his own Conservative party for multiple breaches of Covid-19 restrictions within 10 Downing Street—the so-called “Partygate” revelations—and for misleading Parliament. 

All three superstars appear to have thought the rules did not apply to them, making them vulnerable. In the case of Horta-Osório, breaking Covid-19 rules may have been the public charges, but some say his downfall is as much about objections among the Swiss bank’s directors and senior executives to his hands-on approach, his calls for rigorous accountability, and concerns about the radical reforms he proposed.

And in an age when ordinary citizens endure stringent, sometimes heartbreaking Covid-19 restrictions, public morality and accountability are on center stage—even for those who may be at the “top of their game.”