Thursday, December 12, 2013

Judge Rakoff, the Wegelin judge, Is Interviewed on the U.S. Initiative Against Swiss Banks (12/12/13)

Judge Jed Rakoff (Wikipedia here), who presided over the Wegelin case that brought the venerable firm down, is interviewed by this publication:  Matthew Allen, ‘US is no bully’ says judge in Swiss bank case ( 12/12/13), here.

I highly recommend reading the interview for it offers a rare look into the view of the Court.

Key excerpts:
However, the US perception is that Swiss banking secrecy is an economic decision taken by Switzerland to foster its strong banking activity. That’s not sufficient justification for the harm done to us through massive tax evasion. 
* * * * 
There have been far worse financial crimes to have come before me or other judges, such as WorldCom and Madoff. These were committed by people who set out to commit fraud on a mammoth scale. 
 No one views the cases of the Swiss banks in that magnitude, but no one views them as trivial either. There were large sums of money involved and no government can operate unless people pay their taxes.
JAT Comment:  With due respect to Judge Rakoff, I think the systemic problem that evidenced itself in Switzerland's economic choice to actively violate the tax laws of not only the U.S. but other countries (Germany, France and others) does rise at least equal to WorldCom and Madoff.  Indeed, in those cases you had just a few people whose greed caused the problelm.  By contrast, the Swiss banking system is, in my view, massively corrupt.  They have enabled crooks, swindlers, potentates stealing from their people and other unsavory characters (not to mention tax evaders) for years.  And, lest we forget, they tried to steal the deposits of Holocaust victims.  See Wikipedia entry here.  The Swiss felt themselves entitled to the economic rewards of their questionable activities, and that attitude infected a wide swath of the Swiss population.  I am not meaning to "indict" all the Swiss.  Far from it, but the Swiss banking empire was built on this type of systemic skullduggery and thus had a corrupt influence on the country.  The Worldcoms and Madoffs don't do that, although to be fair much of the financial activity that brought the recession of 2008 was based on equally questionable and systemic activity in the U.S.


  1. Jack, PEOPLE IN GLASS HOUSES SHOULDN'T THROW STONES - "Those who are vulnerable should not attack others" .... you have obviously the right to your own opinion but let me tell you how stereotype and simplistic it is. It really appears that you have not left your state or country very much to gather a more global perspective on things. It is hard to discuss the Swiss and the nazi gold or the swiss banking system or the comment about corruption with someone like you who has a very limited one sided perspective on things especially with regards to WorldCom,Enron,Waste Management,Tyco, HealthSouth,Freddie Mac, AIG, Lance Armstrong, Adelphia Communications, Global Crossing, Martha Stewart and of course B. Madoff .

  2. Jack, did you read the wiki link that you provided? it writes:

    The Volker commission found "no proof of systematic destruction of records of victim accounts, organized discrimination against the accounts of victims of Nazi persecution, or concerted efforts to divert the funds of victims of Nazi persecution to improper purposes"

    You wrote:

    "they tried to steal the deposits of Holocaust victims."

    So, according to the link that you provided, there is no proof to support your accusation. Please stop misusing and abusing the memory of the Holocaust in order to wrongly attack Switzerland with false claims.

  3. UStax, again thank you for your continuing interest in the blog and your comments.

    I agree that there is corruption in the U.S. banks and corporate community. I believe that, as with the Swiss banks, the U.S. banks and corporate community should pay for their conduct. We are seeing some of that now with JP Morgan and saw that with the earlier ones. And of course people should go to jail.

    I fail to see how Swiss banks and bankers should get a pass simply because others in the U.S. were equally corrupt.

    Jack Townsend

  4. Maybe one could explore what the Volker commission meant with "questionable and deceitful actions". Such could mean any number of things, such as an employee not offering the best customer service. Yet, I don't see it as being evidence that "they tried to steal the deposits of Holocaust victims".

    The accusation that you are making is the same accusation made by many individuals on behalf of Israel who counter criticism of human rights issues in Palestine. Israel often attempts to justify its practices by accusing the Swiss of being "crooks, swindlers, and potentates stealing from their people and the deposits of Holocaust victims". So, I don't see your accusation as being balanced. It seems to have the same bias slant favored by many illegal settlement expansion advocates.

    Didn't this entire Swiss bank Holocaust issue result because a women couldn't find her money in a Swiss bank and later discovered that is was being hidden by bank Leumi in Israel? Often, criticism of Swiss banks fails in criticizing Israelis banks which were sued for refusing to return funds to Holocaust survivors. If Swiss banks are supposed to be so "evil", then where is the missing valid criticism of some Israeli banks? Some US banks aren't innocent either, as we seen with Chase's involvement in money laundering in South America.

    Jack, I spent half of my life in the US and half of my life in Switzerland, but I've seen nothing which shows that the Swiss banking system is any better or worse than the US banking system or the Israeli banking system. Isn't most money laundering these days being done in Russia and China, as reported in the latest news?

    You are way too obsessed with Swiss banks, in my view, and such imbalance risks harming the innocent middle class which tends to get hit the hardest when governments misbehave.

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  6. Part I

    In philosophical, theological, or moral discussions, corruption is a spiritual or moral impurity or deviation from an ideal. Corruption may include many activities including bribery and embezzlement...........

    Jack, the problem I have discussing with you "deviation from an ideal" with regards to the swiss banks and bankers is that you are a representative of a professional guild - TAXLAWYER that imo. should win since 2009 - 4 consecutive Oscars for "corrupt" behaviour .

    It rubs me and many other expats the wrong way when you and some of your colleagues here on the blog have spoken openly about "liberal billing practices".

    With regards to OVDI/P representation your guild/professional organization is guilty , in many, many cases of dishonest questionable practices, morally depraved, lacking integrity, debased in character , acting on mercenary financial motives without regard to honor,right or justice. Since 2009 your profession in the US had a windfall profit/jackpot of > $500mio. Amongst others - putting grandmothers on the government’s conveyor belt to oblivion.

    Jack please next time you look in the mirror remember :
    Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

  7. Part II
    The american ignorance and prejudice :
    Jack, I am not surprised at all about how you present your arguments here and maybe I should quickly explain why - it may sound simplistic and patronizing.
    Americans are not international travelers. American passports in circulation are < 36% - if you take away trips to Mexico or Canada that didn`t require a passport until 2007 this number would drop < 20%. Approx. 65% of USPs have never been abroad (and > 15% have even never left the state they were born in) , again if you take away Mexico and Canada this number rises to > 80% . Mark Twain once said that, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and
    narrow-mindedness.” The planet has never been more interconnected and it
    scares me a little that 65% or 80% if you exclude Mexico or Canada of the citizens of the world’s most influential country have never seen any other part of the world.

    Jack "Wikipedia" and foreign links cannot match real life experience - there are huge cultural differences between the US and Switzerland which do explain many traits and behaviors. Obviously to discuss CH, it requires a thorough study of its history to understand how things have evolved .

    Swiss personality traits are “persisting” characteristics that are
    consistently demonstrated in spite of changing circumstances or
    environment. Because they define habitual patterns of behavior, thought
    and emotion, they provide a foundation for predicting behavior.
    Behaviors, on the other hand, are about the way the swiss conduct themselves –
    what they say and do, and how they say and do it. Personality traits don’t
    change over time but one can alter behavior traits to a degree.

    In CH the "system" works : healthcare, pension, education, safety, standard of living, minimum wage etc. A distinction must be made between
    ‘banks in Switzerland’ and ‘Swiss banks’ as you put it . The designation ‘Swiss banks’ also includes subsidiaries in other countries and therefore covers a broader base. From the total of 312 banks (2012) we have 148 foreign banks.

  8. Part III

    ..."the Swiss banking empire was built on this type of systemic skullduggery and thus had a corrupt influence on the country".

    Jack, Capital goes where it is welcome, and stays where it is well-treated.

    There is no doubt that quite a few local swiss bankers displayed a pretty high dose of criminal energy and deserve to be punished - so do their US counterparts which were partners in crime and enablers (Birkenfeld etc.).

    But to understand where this is coming from one needs again to take a detailed look at CH historical political and military neutrality and the specifics of their banking secrecy laws. US law is not CH law. The swiss are very pragmatic thinkers and number crunchers their financial institutions do not want to miss out on future profits arising out of business with the US; and they certainly do not want to screw up their ability to make transfers from and between other foreign financial institutions. The serious and very real privacy issues notwithstanding, the profit motive, is what is at work here plain and
    simple.he IGAs allow foreign financial institutions to self-certify their
    compliance with KYC and AML ("Know Your Customer" and "Anti-Money
    Laundering") rules of which the financial industry has long been
    well-aware. If all they have to do is turn over the names of their
    American account holders to stay in the game, "No problem," even if the
    US government reneges on the so-called reciprocity issue.

  9. Part IV

    Jack and the american hypocrisy with regards to reciprocity :

    the US facilitates tax havens and US tax avoidance via Puerto Rico and American Virgin Islands:

    The US says “tax havens are okay with the IRS and Treasury as long as their OUR US tax havens. Like Delaware, the home state of Vice President Joe Biden – or Florida where “…Miami is a massive offshore banking centre, offering depositors from emerging markets the sort of protection from prying eyes that their home countries can no longer get away with…”

    There is also Nevada Texas and others . US banks facilitating money laundering and profiting from deposits from the proceeds of crime like those from the drug trade are considered ‘too big to prosecute’

  10. Part V

    Jack again to put your remarks about the role of the swiss banking system into perspective :

    three jurisdictions holding the largest amount of non-resident
    deposits are the US, UK, and the Cayman Islands,” with the US leading
    with over $2 trillion in private, non-resident deposits.
    the US ranks No. 1 on the Financial Secrecy Index, which “identifies
    the jurisdictions that are most aggressive in providing secrecy in
    international finance and which most actively shun co-operation with
    other jurisdictions.”
    This puts the US in “the role of Switzerland”
    for other countries, and particularly has allowed the state of Delaware
    to become “the best place to hide wealth”
    One of the smallest states
    in the US, it offers the best protection for anyone who does not want
    to disclose their identity as a beneficial owner of a company. That is
    one very good reason why the East Coast state hosts 50 per cent of the
    US’s quoted firms and 650,000 companies – almost equivalent to one
    company per Delaware resident.
    …Delaware – the political power-base
    of the US vice-president, Joe Biden – offers high levels of banking
    secrecy and does not make details of trusts, company accounts and
    beneficial ownership a matter of public record. Delaware also allows
    companies to re-domicile within its borders with minimal disclosure,
    and allows the existence of privacy-enhancing “protected cell” or
    “segregated portfolio” companies, among many other stratagems useful
    for protecting the identity of those who do business there.

    the US , DOJ and you Jack apply the same rules to their own "systemic
    skullduggery" in their backyard I think it is not hard to understand why
    the US is just looked upon as the big bully

  11. Part VI

    ......"Let me give you one specific instance in which, while I can't speak for
    the Swiss bank's subjective motivations, I can speak to the facts ".......

    Jack, I can only comment to the facts that you mentioned here so if there are some important details missing now is the time to add them.
    Jack you are a USP and you are trying to understand a foreign business model without taking into account the national "why and how".
    PB in the US is and always will be different than PB in CH.
    In your case - your client the wife and her deceased husband a USP opened a swiss bank account to hide money from the IRS - He does not tell his swiss banker that the POA for his wife will be his personal secret . The first question arises here why should the swiss banker know that her husband passed away ? What part of swiss bank secrecy do you not understand here ?
    Just because the swiss bank has the mailing details from husband and wife does not mean they should or must initiate correspondence. These are questions that the swiss banker will always ask when the account was opened but since the deceased husband wanted to stay anonymous the swiss banker respected his client wishes - nothing more nothing less.
    The swiss banker is not a baby sitter . If not requested you cannot blame the swiss bank for acting passively for these 15 years.

    You cannot put your personal US label because you would do it differently on a CH business model.

  12. Does anyone remember that when the Arab spring happened, practically every deposed/dead Arab dictator (Gadaffi, Mubarak etc.) turned out to have multi-billion dollar accounts in Switzerland

    The US action is undoubtedly high handed, but the fact is that Switzerland has been a systematic participant in the looting of many third world countries by brutal dictators, corrupt politicians and bureaucrats and crooked businesses. Swiss bankers are not gallant supporters of freedom, they are accessories before and after the fact to criminal actions.

    I am no fan of US actions and its hypocrisy, but the US does not have a financial system based almost entirely on aiding and abetting corruption and criminal actions. The high handedness of the US (and its actions against genuine US expats) should not be an excuse for forgetting that Switzerland is not an innocent bystander.

    As far as I am concerned, Jack is being too polite.

  13. In what year did Switzerland become America's 51st state in order for the Swiss system to be dictated by the US government? Is not Switzerland its own nation with its own government in its own jurisdiction?

    As far as I am concerned, Switzerland has acted as a fourth column in practically every country in the world corruptly aiding and abetting the criminal politicians and bureaucrats of those countries in looting their wealth. I think most Swiss bankers should be considered criminal accessories in hundreds of jurisdictions.

    The US is one of the few that has the wherewithal to fight back, so I commend it for that (if little else)

  14. Towards the end of the interview he says "A private citizen cannot bring a stock fraud lawsuit if all the relevant activity occurred abroad –"
    Not sure whether he's saying that this would extend to the US not being able to bring a lawsuit if all the relevant activity occurred abroad.
    But there are many customers whose only activity occurred abroad because the money in their account came from 1) earnings prior to immigrating to the US, and/or 2) earnings after emigrating from the US, 3) inheritance from parents or grandparents who were not in the US. In such cases the money never passed through the US and banks simply opened and maintained the accounts. I don;t see how in such cases the banks did anything wrong, or how such actions have a legal basis for US jurisdiction. I also don't see how a penalty of 27.5% of assets is appropriate for depositors in such circumstances.

  15. These bias opinions are supported with what? It is nice to know that you want for the US to fight against the innocent to please your bigoted views. Yet, the the act of fighting for the wrong cause has already put the US into 17 trillion in debt. How much more debt do you want for the US to rack up until it self-destructs from fighting for the wrong cause against the innocent? Eventually, you'll just have to accept that bias wars against the innocent always fail.

  16. Have you ever met or spoken with a "Swiss banker"? If you had, then you'd learn to understand that there are all kinds of "Swiss bankers" with various views and various interests. One just can dump them all into one bucket. Most are innocent and some might be guilty, just like with any country. Your position shows that banking secrecy is necessary to protect the innocent from generalizations made by people like you, just how it was created for that purpose.

  17. The fact of the matter is that Switzerland has hidden the assets of various brutal dictators, violent criminals and corrupt bureaucrats and crooked businessmen over the years. That is undeniable, and the Arab spring example I mentioned above just shows that this is not an anomaly --- it is a way of doing business. Many, many third world countries have been systematically looted through the connivance and active support of these Swiss bankers.

    Pretty much every crack in banking secrecy to expose criminals has come about because of outside pressure on the Swiss. It there were so many innocent Swiss bankers, then they clearly lacked the power to change their government's policies. So, if there are a lot of these "innocent" Swiss bankers, they were lying pretty low.

    Banking secrecy in Switzerland is hardly some sort of gallant defence against corrupt governments -- for the most part it works to preserve the wealth of corrupt governments.

  18. Fact: Pretty much all the dead/deposed brutal dictators during the Arab Sprint tended out to have multibillion dollar accounts in Swiss banks
    Fact: Major corruption investigations in Third World Countries (such as India) almost always lead to Swiss banks, which hiding behind secrecy laws, refuse to disclose information that would allow bringing cases against crooked politicians.

    No bigotry here, just a matter of fact. Swiss banks are absolutely not innocent bystanders. Indeed, all the indictments (which Jack has published) against banks and individuals show clearly that they are not innocent.

    Finally, if some of these banks are really innocent, they can get their day in court. The US court system at least is quite fair. The banks can certainly hire lawyers to defend themselves in court if they chose.

  19. I wasn't going to comment, until I saw this about Jack as I am admittedly not knowledgeable enought about Swiss banking, history, culture and privacy practices to make a well informed comment. However, I do know something about Jack. I think you may have wrongly classified Jack or just lumped him together generally with the practices of the guild.

    I would like to correct that impression.

    I have been following and commenting on Jack's blog for a very long time, (less so recently) and I have an entirely different view of the services he has provided.

    IMHO, Jack has been very generous with his time in providing pro-bono advice to many minnows who have come here asking FBAR and OVDP questions. Additionally, I consulted with him, when I went through the OVDP in 2009, on my own, and found him to be very fair with his billing practices. I don't begrudge him the value placed by the market place on his services, and never did I find him encouraging me to do something against by self interest and to the advantage of his. He has been extremely fair.

    He did NOT try to entice me to use his services to guide me (milk me of fees) through the OVDP, nor did he engage in any of the fear mongering I saw other attorneys doing. (still are)

    So, Jack is in a class of his own, and I would not make the mistake of generalizing about him from the justifiably critical comments of the practices of his profession. They richly deserves many of the lawyer jokes I am guilty of spreading.

    That doesn't mean that I agree with him in all areas of POV, or political leanings. I think he may be projecting onto all of Swiss banking, a demonization that might be justifiable true of a few of the Biggies (14?) who I have no personal concern about the investigations or DOJ prosecution.

    If they were in the States promoting tax evasion, then they get what they deserve.

    But, as little as I admittedly understand about the Swiss banking system, and the 300 plus banks there, it does seem to me, that the DOJ is trying to demonize all Swiss banking in an OVDP just like the IRS swept up all minnows and Whales alike that were silly enough to get on their conveyor belt. One size fits all. All our guilty until they prove their innocence.

    I will add this recent Economist story to the mix of discussion...

    Title Dis-Close

    "AMERICANS never made up a large portion of Swiss private banks’ international client base, but the price to be paid for allowing some of them to evade tax is proving to be steep—and could be ruinous for some smaller wealth managers...."

    Read more here...

    Finally, when it comes to hypocrisy, I do think the U.S. is calling the Kettle black, and can do it not because of the moral superiority of its banking system or banksters, or its better adherence to the rule of law, rather its hegemonic power (not to mention aircraft carriers) and the dominance of the all mighty U.S. dollar, allows it to say, "Do as I say, not as I do!"

    With FATCA, what is good for the foreign goose, is NOT good for the domestic gander, or Congress would have passed a domestic DATCA before it went out into the world to impose FATCA so unilaterally.

    The world, from an overseas perspective, is getting pretty tired of this hubris. Even organizations like the Association of Certified Financial Crime Specialist (ACFCS) recognizes what myopic Americans do not.

    "As FATCA nears, US is accused of hypocrisy in attacking offshore secrecy while keeping its own."

    So it goes. Foreign financial institutions and Swiss banks may make a business decision to give into U.S. Bullying and hypocrisy and pay up or be FATCA compliant at a big cost, but it does leave a bad taste in their mouths that isn't easily washed way with the liquor of future profits in the U.S. market. Blow back will happen, and when it does, we can be pretty sure that Americans, ala 9/11, won't understand why. .

  20. I appreciate your effort really. I know a good tax attorney north miami beach. he is really popular. He is aawarded locally for great support.

  21. More empty accusations don't serve to support previously made empty accusations. You are supposed to condemn your argument for generalizating in a bigoted manner instead of throwing in more empty accusations in defense of false accusations which you knowingly can't defend.

    So, you see, banking secrecy is necessary to protect the innocent from empty accusations driving by bigoted interests. Your views towards Switzerland are clearly bigoted, unsupported and unjust. Support for such interests explains why the US is so eager to harm the innocent with its war against the wrong cause.

  22. Really? So, which "brutal dictator" is approved by the Swiss White Money strategy? Link please.

    If your views are not bigoted, then why are you generalizing in a racist manner? One must not generalize if one wishes to not be a proven racist. So far, your generalizations have proven that your views are driven by racist interests.

    The question is not "if these banks are really innocent", but rather why can you not prove that they are guilty? You cannot prove that they are guilty since your bias interests are not realistic.

  23. Here is some of the unintended consequences for the many dual citizen or accidental Americans living under the DOJ jihad against Swiss banks...

    Accounts blocked.

    With such actions, I wonder if the DOJ actions will have the effect of cleansing Switzerland of all Americans living there. Might as well go home, like this guy... scroll down to see comment by Gatallic Bill Cosmos

  24. Firstly, Swiss bankers are not a race by any definition of the word, so its clearly not racist to generalize against them.

    You wanted links ? Lets see, here's one

    Gadaffi, Mubarak, the former dictator of Tunisia -- and that's just a list of recent deposed dictators. And please don't tell me that Swiss bankers didn't know that these assets totalling 10s of billions of dollars belonged to these dictators.

    Or look at this

    Just one more example of corrupt politicians and businessmen laundering bribes through Swiss accounts.

    I am sure these "innocent" banks appreciate your attempts to defend them gallantly.

  25. I am not "supposed" to do anything. False accusations ? See my note below about brutal dictators and corrupt politicians with Swiss accounts. .
    But please keep on accusing me of 'racism', since it shows your inability to defend the 'innocent' Swiss bankers.

  26. Fropper, I suggest you read this article from the New York Times about Riggs bank of Washington DC and its conduct with Chilean Pinochet, Equatorial Guinea, and Saudi Arabia. Sounds quite similar to UBS conduct.

    I am not saying that two wrongs make a right, simply that UBS and Riggs both engaged in the similar bad type of conduct.

  27. For more on Riggs, see

    Jack Townsend

  28. Banks are being told that the US will move them from category 2 to 3 after the US realizes that their clients are compliant.

    Since many Americans favor the racist generalization of all banks being guilty, are the banks being pushed into category 2 with false promises?

  29. Just to be clear, I am NOT defending the US. I am not even a US citizen.
    I am simply pleased that 'innocent' Swiss banks are finally being held accountable for their actions, even if the real injured parties (third world countries that have seen their wealth looted) are not the ones bringing the action.

  30. Swiss Bank
    Accounts.---- July. 2015.

    Is your monies safe
    in these accounts ---- definitely NOT.

    Would you get your
    money back if every body decided to withdraw all their accounts –
    NO WAY.

    Economic Experts
    say that there would only enough money to repay 50% of their clients.

    Are you going to be
    in the 50% --- that loose your money.-- Get it out NOW.

    2012 -- - June.
    -- Published in Anglo INFO .Geneva.--- USA Trust Fund Investors were
    sent false and fraudulent documents by Pictet Bank.Switzerland. in
    order to collect large fees. ( Like MADOFF) ---Even after the SEC in
    the USA uncovered the fraud Pictet continued to charge fees and drain
    whatever was left in these accounts. Estimated that $90,000,000
    million lost in this Pictet Ponzi scheme.

    2012 - - - July.
    -- De – Spiegel. -- states – Pictet Bank uses a letterbox
    company in

    and a tax loophole involving investments in London to gain

    millionaires as clients.

    - - - August ---- German Opposition Leader accuses Swiss Banks of
    "organised crime."

    April 2015. ----
    Inner City Press.---- United Nations Joint Staff Pension Funds.

    Fund.--$53 Billion.----- The spokesman FARHAN HAQ would not answer
    whether Investment chairman – IVAN PICTET had to quit ---- after
    allegations made by some staff. ---- “ once a crook always
    a crook” – so there.

    the fines that crooked Swiss banks have incurred in the last few
    years exceeds £75.Billion.

    is also calculated that the secrecy " agreements" with
    regards to tax evation by their clients will cost the banks another
    £450 Billion.( paid out of your monies.)

    banks are panicking --- the are quickly restructuring their banks
    ---- from partnerships --

    " LIMITED COMPANIES." ----- this will probably mean that
    in the future --- they could

    you only 10% of your monies " if you are one of the lucky ones"
    ---- and it be legal.


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