While pursuing their own probe into Wall Street insider trading, four of Rep. John Dingell's investigators cut short a trip to Switzerland last week after being reprimanded by Swiss officials over their attempts to obtain information from a Geneva bank.

The incident briefly threatened the cooperation the Swiss are providing to U.S. agencies investigating insider trading, according to a Washington lawyer who represents Swiss banks.

But a spokesman for the Swiss Embassy said yesterday that while the government had been "displeased" over the staffers' conduct, there was no longer cause for any concern.

Staff members on Dingell's oversight and investigations subcommittee said the matter was a "misunderstanding" that was stirred up by interests attempting to impede the panel's work.

"We got sabotaged," said Peter Stockton, one of the four staffers involved in the incident.

According to Stockton and others, the four Dingell aides flew to Switzerland earlier this month to question bank officials and others about Switzerland's secrecy laws.

But on Feb. 15, in a meeting with officials of the Bank Pictet & Cie., the staffers may have overstepped their bounds, according to a spokesman for the Swiss Embassy.

Under Swiss law, no foreign authorities may conduct "any investigations" on Swiss soil without the presence of an official of the Swiss government, the spokesman said. But Pictet officials apparently complained the Dingell staffers began asking too many detailed questions.

Stockton yesterday denied this, saying the staffers only wanted to better understand the workings of the bank. But, he said, "we began getting panic phone calls" the next day from Washington.

After talking to Dingell, Stockton said he and the congressman agreed they should return home.

Robert Royer, a lawyer who represents the Swiss Bankers Association, said he called the Justice Department to complain and warn them information about its insider trading probe "may not be forthcoming."

But a Justice Department spokesman said "We don't feel this jeopardized our relationship with the Swiss. We feel they {the staffers} should have had better advance work before they went over."

Dingell could not be reached for comment yesterday.