United States says to UBS: Show Me the Money!

Switzerland’s landmark decision to allow UBS to pass client data to Washington will tarnish the Swiss franc’s safe-haven allure as the country’s prized bank secrecy laws come under assault.  For decades, the Swiss franc has been viewed as the world’s safest currency in times of uncertainty, thanks to the Alpine country’s once vast gold reserves, low inflation, political neutrality and laws protecting banking confidentiality.

But UBS AG’s (UBSN.VX) (UBS.N) agreement last week to disclose about 250 names of U.S. clients to tax investigators raised doubts over the future of Switzerland’s secretive banking industry, fueling fears of capital flight which have weighed heavily on the franc.  “The Swiss will now have to become much more compliant with global banking laws,” said Boris Schlossberg, director of currency research at GFT Forex in New York.

UBS AG shares fell to a new all-time low on Tuesday after news the Swiss bank will have to wait until July to fight in court a U.S. bid to force it to disclose client names in a tax fraud probe.  UBS, the world’s largest banker to the rich, agreed last week to pay a $780 million fine and disclose the identity of about 300 of its U.S. clients to avert criminal charges, raising hopes the troubled bank could end its U.S. legal problems.

But the following day, U.S. tax authorities said they were still pursuing a civil lawsuit against UBS seeking to access the data of another 52,000 American citizens it says are hiding about $14.8 billion in assets in secret Swiss bank accounts. On Monday, a U.S. judge gave the bank until April 30 to file its response to the case and scheduled a trial for July 13, a UBS spokesman said, adding UBS would “vigorously contest” the enforcement of the summons for the client data.    Link.

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