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Banking Commission calls for legal changes

Left to right, Kurt Hauri, Daniel Zuberbühler and Romain Marti Keystone

The Swiss Federal Banking Commission wants changes in current legislation to prevent the misuse of Swiss banks.

In particular, it wants to make life easier for foreign regulatory authorities to receive information from Switzerland.

At a news conference in Bern on Thursday, the president of the Commission, Kurt Hauri, explained that changes were needed in order to protect the interests of Switzerland as a financial centre.

The Commission – Switzerland’s banking watchdog body – said it would send proposed changes for consideration by finance minister Kaspar Villiger, the government and parliament.

Strong pressure from abroad

Hauri said the current weakness had prompted strong pressure from abroad, in particular the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the European Union and the International Commission of Securities Commissions.

The director of the Banking Commission, Daniel Zuberbühler, told swissinfo that there were problems in the international exchange of information with foreign securities regulators.

“Our legal provisions are too narrow and make it very complicated and recently as we’ve seen in the case of the Federal Supreme Court impossible even to grant information to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, which is clearly not what the legislator had intended,” he said.

Meet international standards

Underlining the importance of changes for Switzerland, Zuberbühler said that any financial centre had to be able to meet the international standards, otherwise it would be considered inefficient and evasive.

“It could also have repercussions on our banks for their access to foreign markets. In an extreme case, a foreign regulator might say that he didn’t want Swiss banks acting on his exchange because he did not get the information needed on transactions to find out if there had been abuse,” he said.

Need to cooperate

“That’s exactly the situation we’re in when we supervise our markets. We also need to cooperate and get information from foreign regulators,” he commented.

Zuberbühler also said the Banking Commission was “rather limited” in sanctions at its disposal in dealing with market participants that were not banks or securities firms — in other words, persons or companies not subject to its surveillance.

The Commission is therefore supporting a revision of the stock exchange law concerning insider trading.

“We cannot take any sanction against private insiders. We can only refer them to the prosecutor, so we could make a criminal referral, but that’s it,” he said.

The Commission’s vice-director, Franz Stirnimann, described the fact that the watchdog body did not have the authority to survey all market participants as a “serious deficiency”.

“The surveillance of a financial centre, which want to be taken seriously, needs an arsenal of instruments at its disposal to come up to the expectations of it,” he commented.

by Robert Brookes

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR