The president of the Swiss Financial and Market Supervisory Authority (Finma) has defended the body’s decision to hand over UBS data to the United States.
Eugen Haltiner’s comments to a newspaper on Saturday come a day after the federal administrative court said Finma abused its power when it ordered that details of 255 account holders suspected of tax evasion in the US be sent to Washington.
The court said that Finma could not base its decision on emergency rights in the constitution and that the government did not give the green light to apply the emergency clause, but only asked Finma to take the necessary steps to prevent a legal complaint by the US against UBS.
Haltiner told the NZZ that Finma had made “an appropriate decision”. He reiterated Finma’s position that the move had prevented a legal complaint against UBS and insisted that there was sufficient legal basis. The government had agreed to the transfer of data, he added.
He also rejected calls for his resignation, adding that he still believed that he had the government’s confidence.
The court’s decision was the subject of much discussion in the Saturday press. Several newspapers were of the view that government, and Finance Minister Hans Rudolf Merz in particular, had not taken enough responsibility in the matter.
The tabloid Blick, while blaming Merz and Haltiner principally, said that the affair could pave the way for costly legal action. Geneva’s Le Temps said the handing over of the data would always be remembered as “the biggest humiliation inflicted on Switzerland”.
Last February Finma and UBS announced they would disclose details of 255 clients suspected of tax evasion by US authorities.
UBS paid $780 million (SFr806.5 million) in fines last February after admitting "improper activities" from some of its employees.
Following intense pressure, the Swiss government in August also agreed to hand over a further 4,450 account holder details to the US Internal Revenue Service investigating cases of suspected tax fraud.
As agreed with the US government as part of a deal the first 600 files were processed by the end of last year and will be handed over pending court appeals.
swissinfo.ch and agencies