Companies are finding it hard to compete with their global-minded European Union counterparts
Entertainment is sometimes found in the least expected places, for example the annual general meetings of Swiss corporations.
Take the gladiatorial combat at the AGM of Kuoni Reisen Holding, one of Europe's largest travel companies. Chairman Daniel Affolter was prevented by a guard from taking a seat next to chief executive Hans Lerch and vice-chairman Heinz Mueller, and forced to watch from a seat in the hall. Lerch and Mueller are currently trying to oust Affolter from the company over a $4.6m bonus he took out of business.
Or witness the Oedipal drama at the AGM of SGS Holding, where former chief executive Elisabeth Salina Amorini, granddaughter of the founder of the goods inspection company, was ousted from the board because she was 'unable to work constructively with both the board and the management team.'
There are certain characteristics associated with the Swiss, including reserve, decorum, stability, and moderation. These good, if not terribly exciting, qualities now look to have been completely abandoned by the Swiss corporate sector.
Everywhere you look, the traditional giants of Swiss corporate life appear sunk in turmoil and confusion.
The economy reflects the haphazard progress of Switzerland's biggest companies. Economic growth rose to just above 3% last year, the highest rate in 10 years but it is now expected to slip back down again. In the past 15 years, annual growth has averaged less than 1.5%. No major industrial nation has done worse.
Is it too early to talk of a Swiss malaise ' a middle European version of what most of continental Europe used to call the English disease? Perhaps. This is, after all, one of the world's most prosperous countries, and it still has corporate champions such as NestlÃ© which are powering ahead.
But it might be true that Switzerland is finally paying the price of isolation. Having cut itself off from the rest of Europe by disdaining both the EU and the euro, Switzerland might be about to discover that independence comes with a price.
One explanation of relative Swiss decline might be that they are just too rich: it could well be the first example of a country that did so well, it decided not to worry about the economy anymore. A Merrill Lynch survey found that one in every 39 Swiss is a dollar millionaire. None of those people is going to worry about the sluggish local economy.
More plausibly, the Swiss are finding that isolation no longer works in a globalising economy. Locking yourself away from the world might be good for hermits and philosophers but it is not good for corporations.
The other big European economies have all managed to create new world-leading companies in the past few years, either brand new companies or re-invigorated old ones.
Britain has spawned Vodafone; France has created Vivendi Universal; Spain has the banking giant Banco Santander Central Hispano and Germany features new companies such as the software maker SAP.
But where are the new Swiss companies? The are still plenty of big corporations in Switzerland, but they all date back decades, if not centuries. No sign of entrepreneurial vigour or inspired corporate re-invention there. There is nothing wrong with old companies. But every corporate economy needs regular shots of new blood to stay healthy.
Integration, and the creation of the euro, have made the European economy more vigorous, lively, and dynamic. Companies have to test themselves against a wider range of competitors, and that has made them sharper. Executives move more easily from one country to another, bringing with them new ideas, and allowing boardrooms to draw on a wider pool of talent.
Switzerland flourished when most companies were national, even if they operated internationally. In an age when most companies are transnational, it is wilting. Swiss companies are always runs by Swiss nationals, and when they merge it is usually with other Swiss companies. In a globalised economy, insularity may be the most dangerous of all ailments.
Switzerland is regularly held up by opponents of the EU as a beacon of success outside the Union. Anyone peddling that line is reading from a very old script. They should look at modern Switzerland more closely and ponder what lessons it has to teach those nations that stand outside the mainstream of European life.
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