Swiss Supreme Court Rules Against Disclosure of Lawyers Who Helped With Tax Evasion
The United States government created the Swiss Bank program in order to encourage Swiss financial institutions to come forward with information about accountholders. In exchange for paying a fine and providing requested info on offshore tax evaders, banks can avoid criminal prosecution.
More than 80 Swiss banks have already come forward to give details about their accountholders to the U.S. authorities so the banks can ensure better outcomes for themselves. The willingness of the banks to provide this information has undermined the long history and tradition of banking privacy in Switzerland.
Now, some banks want to be even more helpful to the U.S. government. Some of the banks coming forward to participate in the Swiss Bank Program have expressed an eagerness to tell U.S. authorities about which lawyers and law firms were involved in setting up accounts for American clients. Fortunately, the Swiss Supreme Court has ruled that the bank cannot disclose this information.
Accountholders deserve privacy, and they especially do not deserve to have their lawyers' names disclosed. Attorneys who provide advice to clients also should not become pawns in a Swiss bank's efforts to avoid prosecution.
The eagerness of the Swiss bank to turn over information on attorneys shows that financial institutions are more-than-willing to compromise privacy and integrity to put themselves in a better position. Any accountholders need to be aware their bank could turn on them at any moment and should consult with Washington DC international tax lawyers for help deciding what their legal options are for resolving problems with undisclosed offshore money.
Swiss Banks Cannot Reveal Information About Accountholders' Lawyers
The bank which wanted to provide information to the U.S. officials about accountholders' lawyers is Corner Bank, which is based in Lugano. Corner Bank wanted to offer extensive details about the lawyers and their law firms as a part of its participation in the Swiss Bank Program.
In September 22, the Swiss Supreme Court ruled that Corner Bank could not take this action. The court released its ruling recently, asserting privacy concerns as it denied the bank the right to disclosure. Handing over data on the law firm to U.S. authorities would be considered a violation of the privacy of individuals involved, since United States law does not guarantee adequate privacy protections as required by Swiss law.
The Supreme Court's ruling affirmed the decision of a lower court, which also blocked the data exchange based on privacy concerns. It is considered by some to represent a closing of the ranks within the financial industry of Switzerland. It is also an important decision, as the United States has already indicted attorneys for helping Americans to hide offshore funds.
Accountholders with offshore funds deserve the privacy they expected when they opened their accounts, but they have lost this privacy thanks to the eager participation of banks in the Swiss Bank Program. They should not also lose the right to get confidential legal advice. Any accountholder who is concerned about what will happen if and when their information becomes public should consult with attorney Kevin Thorn for help.