James Bond , Jason Bourne and other international icons of intrigue may soon need to look elsewhere to keep their secret bank accounts. A Swiss parliamentary committee recommended yesterday that the full Parliament back an agreement with the United States to hand over the bank details of UBS’ 4,450 American clients in spite of Switzerland’s long-standing bank secrecy laws.
The Parliament will vote later this month on whether to permit Switzerland to make the disclosure. The vote would effectively end Switzerland’s storied history as a secret money haven.
Although the Swiss government agreed in August 2009 to share some details of secret Swiss accounts to end a dispute, a Swiss court ruling in January blocked that accord. Support for the deal in the Swiss Parliament would avert the risk of new tax litigation against UBS.
The Swiss are well aware of the high stakes in the UBS case. Failure to back the settlement would probably reopen the U.S. government’s lawsuit against UBS. Ultimately, the bank’s license in the United States could be revoked.
The UBS tax controversy was part of a scathing report issued by the Swiss Parliament into the Swiss government’s handling of the credit crisis. The report is an interesting read and embedded in its entirety below (Scroll down to page 10 to skip to the UBS tax controversy):
Does all this spell the end of Swiss banking? Hardly. Despite the recent changes, the Swiss banking sector will remain one of the world’s premiere financial centers due to its skilled pool of managers, currency stability and low taxes. In a new age of transparency, Switzerland is sure to thrive (not so much with the secret agent crowd).