Swiss banks that seek to avoid prosecution for fostering tax evasion through secret accounts held by U.S. clients face penalties of as much as 50 percent of the value of those assets, the U.S. government said.
Hundreds of Swiss banks could be covered by a U.S.- Switzerland accord over how to punish financial institutions that used secret accounts to help American clients hide assets from U.S. tax authorities. The U.S. said Aug. 29 it will continue criminal probes of 14 banks while allowing others to avoid prosecution by paying penalties and disclosing accounts.
The accord lets Switzerland, the world’s largest offshore financial center with about $2.2 trillion of assets, resolve talks spanning two years after U.S. criminal prosecutions eroded Swiss bank secrecy. Those under investigation include Credit Suisse Group AG (CSGN), the second-largest Swiss bank; HSBC Holdings Plc (HSBA), the largest European bank; and Julius Baer Group Ltd. (BAER)
Since 2009, the U.S. has prosecuted 68 account holders and more than 30 banking professionals for offshore tax crimes.
Under the accord, banks that seek to avoid prosecution must pay penalties, disclose their cross-border activities, give detailed account information for U.S. clients, describe other banks that received secret accounts, and cooperate in requests for information under a U.S.-Swiss tax treaty.
Banks wanting to participate in the program will need to apply for individual authorization, the Swiss government said in a statement Aug. 30. Banks that believe they have violated U.S. tax law must request non-prosecution agreements by Dec. 31.
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India Doubles Gold Futures Margins as Prices Rally to Record
India’s commodity markets regulator ordered exchanges to double margins on gold futures after a record plunge in the nation’s currency fueled a rally in bullion priced in rupees to an all-time high.
Initial margins on all contracts will rise to 5 percent of the value from Sept. 2, from 4 percent, the Forward Markets Commission said on its website. An additional margin of 5 percent will be levied on gold, silver, Brent crude, crude oil, and natural gas contracts due to high volatility in prices and it will be effective until further orders, it said.
Futures on the Multi Commodity Exchange of India Ltd. in Mumbai advanced to a record last week, rebounding 32 percent from a two-year low in June, threatening jewelry demand during the main festival season. Consumption in the country, which imports almost all the bullion it needs, accounted for about 20 percent of global demand in 2012, according to data from the World Gold Council.
Futures have gained 6.3 percent this year, compared with a 17 percent drop in the metal priced in dollars.
India’s rupee fell to a record low of 68.8450 on Aug. 28 and has lost 17 percent this year.
China Starts Bond Futures Trading Sept. 6, Security Times Says
The China Securities Regulatory Commission approved the China Financial Futures Exchange to start government bond futures trading on Sept. 6, the Securities Times reported, citing an unidentified spokesman from the commission.
The nation began treasury futures trading in 1992 and stopped it three years later after an investigation into alleged market manipulation.
Separately, the commission will introduce new rules on high-frequency trading, the Securities Times reported, citing an unidentified spokesman from the commission.
Separately, China will regulate its state-owned companies and control its shareholders’ actions, according to a statement posted to the commission’s website.
The nation’s state-owned companies should coordinate business development with listed companies they control to eliminate internal competition, the commission said in the statement.
India Said to Plan Tax Cut on Some Ore Exports to Help Rupee
India is considering reducing taxes on some exports of iron ore to boost shipments and help reverse a decline in the local currency, said two government officials with direct knowledge of the matter.
Taxes on overseas shipments of low-grade fines, or small particles, may be cut to 20 percent from 30 percent, the people said, declining to be identified before a public announcement. The lower tax will apply only to a part of the exported quantity, they said without elaborating. The proposal is with the finance ministry and will be placed before the cabinet for approval soon, they said.
Boosting exports will help Prime Minister Manmohan Singh narrow the current account deficit, avert a balance of payments crisis and stem the plunge in the rupee, which has declined 16 percent this year, the worst performance after the South African Rand among 24 emerging-market currencies tracked by Bloomberg. Lower taxes will also help Indian miners regain market share in China from Rio Tinto Group (RIO) and BHP Billion Ltd. (BLT)
D.S. Malik, a spokesman at the finance ministry, declined to comment, while Ruby Sharma, spokeswoman for the mines ministry, didn’t answer two calls to her office numbers after business hours.
Dutch Regulator Keeps Insurer Rate Curve After France Cut
Aegon NV (AGN) and Delta Lloyd NV (DL) are among Dutch insurers facing a drop in solvency because regulators decided to preserve the interest-rate curve used to calculate liabilities following France’s downgrade.
“Discussions took place at the request of the Dutch Association of Insurers to explore the possibility to allow for a different alternative interest-rate curve,” the Dutch Central Bank, or DNB, said Aug. 29 in a statement. “However, DNB currently sees insufficient reason to approve a different alternative interest-rate curve.”
Insurers asked the regulator to reconsider after Fitch Ratings stripped France, Europe’s second-largest economy, of its AAA rating in July. The Dutch Association of Insurers, a trade group representing about 95 percent of the market, said the industry still has a strong solvency position.
The Netherlands, together with Germany, Finland and Luxembourg, are the only remaining countries in the euro region that have top ratings at the three major rating companies.
Bitcoin Exchange Tradehill Pauses for Regulatory Reasons
Tradehill Inc., an exchange for virtual currencies such as Bitcoin, is temporarily suspending trading, citing unspecified banking and regulatory reasons.
“This decision has not been made lightly and we regret having to take such action,” the company said Aug. 30 on its website. The company said it plans to “to upgrade, improve, and polish our trading platform.”
Tradehill has been seeking more business from investors and financial institutions as it works to legitimize virtual-currency trading in the U.S. The San Francisco-based company is among several upstart exchanges such as Mt. Gox and BTC-e that have emerged to support Bitcoin trading. Jered Kenna, chief executive officer of Tradehill, didn’t immediately return requests for comment.
Tradehill registered last month with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, a U.S. Treasury agency that targets money laundering, the company said in its statement. Steve Hudak, an agency spokesman, said he couldn’t comment on any regulatory issues for a specific firm.
FinCEN, as the Treasury agency is known, released guidance in March saying digital-currency administrators and exchangers are considered money-services businesses subject to regulations and anti-money-laundering controls. Regulators in Tradehill’s home state, California, have also been watching virtual currencies.
Mark Leyes, a spokesman for California Department of Business Oversight, didn’t respond to requests for comment on Tradehill.
Payment Group Says U.S. Banks Can Work With Legal Online Lenders
Banks can do business with Internet-based lenders that don’t violate the law, the nation’s primary payment system said in a letter that followed warnings from regulators about the online firms’ practices.
Nacha, the group that oversees the automated clearing house network, told the Online Lenders Alliance, an industry association, that banks have to examine the circumstances of lenders’ work and “take action where appropriate.”
Banks need not stop processing payments “for online lenders engaged in legal lending activity,” Jane Larimer, the executive vice president and general counsel of Nacha said in an Aug. 26 letter.
Nacha’s members include Citigroup Inc. (C:US), Bank of America Corp. (BAC:US), JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM:US), Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC:US), PNC Financial Services Group (PNC:US) and U.S. Bancorp. (USB:US)
Benjamin Lawsky, New York’s state superintendent of financial services, on Aug. 6 ordered a group of 35 online lenders, including at least four owned by Native American tribes, to cease offering loans in New York. He charged the loans violated New York’s interest rate caps.
Lawsky also sent a letter to 117 banks and Nacha itself requesting their assistance to “choke off” the lenders from the automated clearing house system, the bank-supported network that handles electronic bank account debits. Nacha responded on Aug. 8 by asking banks to advise the payment network whether they are still doing business with the online lenders named by Lawsky.
The online lending group has argued, on various grounds, that its members do not violate the law.
The Department of Justice and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. have also been pressuring banks to reconsider their relationships with online lenders.
Norway’s FSA Says Banks Had Core Capital of 11% End of June
Norway’s Financial Supervisory Authority said banks are meeting minimum capital requirements put in place from July 1 this year, according to an e-mailed statement Aug. 30.
The nation’s banks had core capital of 11 percent at the end of June, the Authority said in the statement.
The Authority also said banks had core capital of 9.9 percent a year earlier.
Rhoen Assumes It’s Not Focus of German Prosecutors Investigation
Rhoen-Klinikum (RHK), the German health-care facility operator, has no information about reported investigations, spokesman Sascha Schiffler said in e-mail statement Aug. 30.
Rhoen said the company would fully cooperate if public prosecutors contact it. The Data Protection Authority, or DPA, reported alleged market manipulation by Rhoen staff, citing Steinkraus-Koch of the Munich public prosecutors office.
The case concerns alleged violation of security trading law and attempted coercion, according to the DPA.
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