UBS could face US trial over client names

ZURICH - UBS AG may face a trial in a US court in July as it fights efforts to force it to disclose the names of 52,000 US clients suspected of offshore tax evasion, the New York Times reported on Tuesday.



By (Reuters)

Published: Tue 24 Feb 2009, 3:36 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 3:57 AM

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 US clients to avert criminal charges.

But the Swiss bank is still facing a civil case in which US authorities are seeking access to the names of another 52,000 clients.

On Monday, a US judge gave the bank until April 30 to oppose the efforts and to argue it deserved the legal equivalent of a trial, the New York Times reported.

The judge said in a public conference call with UBS lawyers and Justice Department officials that any such mini-trial would take place on July 13, the newspaper reported.

UBS was not immediately available for comment.

UBS shares have been pressured by the fallout from its handling of the US tax probe and slipped 3.5 percent to 9.65 Swiss francs by 0856 GMT, after touching a new all-time low of 9.56 francs.

‘By admitting publicly that at some point it could raise banking secrecy, UBS has taken the risk of losing the loyalty of part of its customer base in its Wealth Management franchise,’ ING analyst Alain Tchibozo said.

‘We see this as an additional risk of margin compression, questioning management’s ability to restore the group’s profitability,’ Tchibozo said.

JULY TRIAL POSSIBLE

Experts say last week’s settlement will dilute Switzerland’s bank secrecy laws and potentially undermine its lucrative wealth management industry.

Ivan Pictet, president of the Geneva Financial Centre foundation, was quoted as saying that Switzerland’s financial sector could halve in size without banking secrecy laws.

The effects would be particularly serious in Geneva, Pictet-who is also senior managing partner of the exclusive bank Pictet & Cie-told newspaper Le Temps.

UBS said last week it could go out of business if it complied with an order to reveal the names, saying the US case would force it to violate Swiss criminal law by turning over information protected by Swiss financial privacy laws.

Such a violation would expose UBS employees to prison terms as well as fines, penalties and other sanctions, attorneys for UBS said.


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