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Some foreign banks drop U.S. clients because of UBS flap
« on: July 15, 2009, 08:58:59 AM »
By Kevin McCoy, USA TODAY

The closely watched Justice Department court fight to get the names of 52,000 suspected American tax evaders from Swiss banking giant UBS has prompted some other foreign banks to drop U.S. clients they once welcomed, tax experts said Monday.
Eager to avoid a similar struggle with federal prosecutors, banks including Credit Suisse and HSBC in recent weeks have notified American clients they must close their offshore accounts or transfer them to the institutions' U.S.-based operations, where tax reporting requirements are far stricter.

"Overall, the international banking community, and particularly the offshore banking community, has been very friendly to American account holders," said William Sharp, a tax law specialist at the Sharp Kemm law firm in Tampa. "That changed in the past couple of months as a result of the UBS case."

U.S. District Judge Alan Gold in Miami on Monday granted an adjournment until Aug. 3 to enable federal prosecutors and attorneys for UBS and the Swiss government to continue negotiations toward a potential settlement. The Justice Department on Sunday said any deal must include data "on a significant number of individuals with UBS accounts."

The owner of an HSBC account in Jersey, one of the English Channel islands, recently received a 45-day notice to close the account, said Robert McKenzie, a tax law specialist at Arnstein & Lehr in Chicago. A client with an offshore Credit Suisse account got a similar notice, he said.

Credit Suisse said, "We strongly believe that we adhere to the highest compliance standards, applicable laws, regulations and policies."

HSBC stressed it doesn't comment on specific client matters, and said the bank "abides by the letter and spirit of the law in every country in which it operates."

Other Swiss banks initially welcomed clients who shifted assets from UBS as the legal fight began last year. The eager greeting turned to reluctance as the trial date loomed, said Charles Rettig, a tax expert at Hochman Salkin Rettig Toscher & Perez in Beverly Hills.

Some foreign banks elsewhere now avoid offshore business with Americans because they know the Justice Department plans "to extend this effort to other jurisdictions beyond Switzerland," said Martin Press, a tax expert at Gunster Yoakley Valdes-Fauli & Stewart in Fort Lauderdale.



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