Ex-SNB chief warns of tax transparency changes

Philipp Hildebrand said his resignation had been an extremely "painful" time and he missed his SNB job Keystone

Switzerland must prepare for the possible automatic exchange of bank client data in five to ten years’ time, declared Philipp Hildebrand, the former chairman of the Swiss National Bank (SNB), in a television interview on Wednesday.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

“Switzerland and its banking system should assume that in five to ten years when a foreign client comes and opens a Swiss bank account, his name, the date he opens the account and the bank’s name will be automatically transferred to his country’s treasury,” said Hildebrand.

“The Swiss fiscal refuge is over.”

Hildebrand, who resigned as SNB chairman in January amid controversy over his wife’s currency trades, said he regretted what had happened.

“I regret it as I deeply loved my job at the SNB,” he commented.

In the interview the former SNB chairman also described the “terrible” period in October 2008 when the national bank was forced to bail out Switzerland’s largest private bank UBS with a multi-billion franc rescue package.

Hildebrand, who at the time was an SNB board director before he became chairman, said he felt “disgusted philosophically” that the state had had to intervene to save a private company.

Hildebrand resigned from the SNB in January after emails cast doubt on his claims not to have known about a foreign exchange trade made by his wife Kashya in August 2011, weeks before the SNB moved to stop the Swiss franc climbing.
 
Hildebrand was accused of insider trading after details of the currency transactions were leaked. The SNB chairman denied the charge.
 
In June 2012 following his resignation it was announced that Hildebrand had joined the world’s largest asset management company Blackrock, based in London where he will be looking after institutional clients in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

The Hildebrand Affair

At the end of 2011, a rumour reached the media that SNB chairman Philipp Hildebrand had used his insider knowledge for personal gain. 

Details started emerging about an advantageous currency trade made by Hildebrand’s wife  Kashya – a Swiss-American dual national. The implication was that she had inside knowledge about the bank’s plans to weaken the franc.

This was followed by revelations in some Sunday papers that the source of the information about the Hildebrands’ accounts was none other than Christoph Blocher, former justice minister, and deputy chairman of the right wing People’s Party. Then it turned out that he’d got the information from an employee of Sarasin Bank.

The next bombshell: the Weltwoche weekly magazine, which is close to the People’s Party, announced that it had “proof” that Philipp Hildebrand himself, not just his wife, had indulged in insider dealing.

Hildebrand spoke to the media on January 5, 2012, denying any wrong doing and completely rejecting calls for his resignation.

But he did say that transparency over the financial affairs of Swiss National Bank managers needed to be improved.

On January 9 Hildebrand faced the media again, this time to resign after realising he could not prove that he had been unaware of his wife's transactions.

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