Thursday, February 26, 2009

Swiss bank secrecy, dead?

Bank secrecy is dead. Get used to it. (Le secret bancaire est mort, et alors?) So runs the title of a Swiss magazine article on the topic, nicely complemented by an article in Switzerland's Le Temps newspaper by Bruno Gurtner, president of TJN.

"Switzerland has been wrong in these last years to have believed that bank secrecy was impregnable,| Gurtner said, "and to have sometimes refused to participate in forums which promote transparency in international finance."

Recently, Pierre Mirabaud, president of the Swiss Bankers' Association, recently told Swiss television that the crisis was about "UBS' lost honour"; other bankers have made declarations to the effect that UBS was an isolated case (this is one of the ways the offshore system has been protected, time over time - the "a few rotten apples in a otherwise clean system" defence - to deflect attention away from the fact that it is the system itself that is dirty.)

Ivan Pictet, a senior Swiss banker, predicted recently that without bank secrecy, the Swiss banking sector could shrink by a half, falling from 12 percent of GDP to six or seven percent. Gurtner takes a different view. What Switzerland needs to offer, instead, is expertise, experience, and stability.

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