Bloomberg News

Swiss Threatened by ‘Intolerable’ Legal Action, Bankers Say

January 13, 2012

(Updates with Pictet comment in fifth paragraph.)

Jan. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Switzerland is threatened by foreign legal action that transgresses the nation’s sovereignty, according to Nicolas Pictet, president of the 13-member Swiss Private Bankers Association.

“It’s an intolerable threat for a small export country like Switzerland,” Pictet, who is also a managing partner at Geneva’s biggest private bank, Pictet & Cie., told reporters in Bern today. “We must remain very vigilant.”

The U.S. is in talks with the Alpine country to resolve a dispute over offshore tax evasion that last week led to the indictment of three client advisers at Switzerland’s oldest private bank, Wegelin & Co. The U.S. Justice Department set a deadline of Jan. 23 for 11 Swiss banks to disclose information on all transactions with U.S. customers since 2000, Neue Zuercher Zeitung reported Jan. 8.

Credit Suisse Group AG, Switzerland’s second-biggest bank, said last July that it was a target of U.S. prosecutors.

“There is very significant pressure from the U.S. on a certain number of institutions to clean up the situation and make sure they don’t shelter any U.S. undeclared clients,” Pictet said in an interview in Bern, without naming any banks. “This has been a very worrying situation. The amount of pressure is extremely high.”

The Swiss government has said it wants to find a comprehensive solution to end U.S. criminal probes while preserving its decades-old tradition of banking secrecy. Switzerland is the world’s biggest haven for offshore wealth.

--Editors: Dylan Griffiths, Keith Campbell.

To contact the reporter on this story: Giles Broom in Geneva at gbroom@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Frank Connelly at fconnelly@bloomberg.net


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