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Top bankers UBS accuses cabinet over opaque policy

Ermotti addressing a news conference earlier this year

(Keystone)

The chief executive of the leading UBS bank, Sergio Ermotti, has criticised the Swiss government for its lack of transparency and caving in to pressure from other countries.

He said the government had failed to win assurances from other countries that Swiss banks are not being taken to court over mistakes of the past.

“We need a coherent approach about our past policy,” he told the SonntagsZeitung and Le Matin Dimanche newspapers.

He said it was unacceptable that Switzerland hands over bank client and bank employee data in suspected cases of tax fraud dating back to the past, because the government failed to close loopholes in bilateral agreements.

“This will pave the way for a new offensive against Swiss banks,” he is quoted as saying.

Ermotti comments come in the wake of a request for legal assistance from France asking UBS to transfer client information. The Federal Tax Authority last week ordered the bank to comply.

He said UBS will challenge the decision in court as there is no legal basis.

“We can’t be obliged to hand over data according to an agreement with France,” Ermotti argues. “We want to ascertain that our client stand a fair chance to defend themselves before any information is passed on. Also we want legal security.”

In the wide ranging interview, Ermotti indirectly criticises the former finance minister, Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf. But he also blames the current government of ignoring the result of last October’s parliamentary elections.

Two weeks ago, Ermotti warned that massive regulations would seriously harm Switzerland’s financial sector.

Credit Suisse

In another development, the CEO of the Credit Suisse bank, Tidjane Thiam, has called for patience despite a steep drop in the prices of CS shares since he took over a year ago.

He said the bank needed time to apply planned reforms.

Thiam said the aim was not to a most favourable share price at short notice but the implementation of a long-term strategy, according to the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper.

Urs Geiser, swissinfo.ch


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