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Switzerland high court upholds UBS disclosure of client information

The Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland [official website, in German] ruled [press release, PDF] Friday that the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) [official website, in German] was right to order UBS [corporate website] to disclose information to the US on more than 250 of the bank's clients. FINMA issued the order in February 2009 after the US Department of Justice (DOJ) accused UBS of assisting Americans in hiding accounts from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) [official websites]. The Supreme Court found that FINMA acted lawfully, overturning a January 2010 lower court ruling that had found FINMA in violation of the law [JURIST report]. FINMA welcomed Friday's ruling and said they would carefully review [press release, in German] the court's judgment. The judgment will be available on the court's website once it has been redacted.

The ruling comes as the US seeks to put an end to tax-evasion through the use of overseas accounts. Last July, the Swiss Federal Administrative Court [official website, in German] ruled that an agreement [text, PDF] with the US, allowing UBS to disclose client account information, is binding [JURIST report]. In November 2009, the DOJ and IRS announced that more than 14,700 Americans had reported to the IRS [JURIST report] previously hidden overseas bank accounts in response to a temporary forgiveness program [official website] allowing delinquent taxpayers to avoid criminal prosecution for tax evasion by paying all overdue taxes and penalties. In September of that year, the US and Switzerland signed a treaty [JURIST report] that would increase the amount of information shared between the two nations on would-be tax evaders. The agreement, constructed in accordance with Article 26 of the Model Tax Convention [text, PDF], came one month after a Swiss banker and lawyer were indicted in US federal court [JURIST report] for helping clients hide assets. Earlier in 2009, the US reached a preliminary agreement with Switzerland over the identification of anonymous accounts [JURIST report] in Swiss banks, which would aid US officials in identifying those who seek to evade taxes.

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