One-third of Swiss banks offered amnesty by the U.S. for helping Americans evade taxes have applied for the program, a federal prosecutor [AAG Keneally] stated at a Jan. 25 conference, according to three lawyers.
The U.S. government gave more than 300 Swiss banks until Dec. 31 to seek non-prosecution agreements if they have “reason to believe” they violated tax laws. Some 106 sought to join the initiative, which requires participants to disclose how they helped Americans hide assets, hand over data on undeclared accounts and pay penalties.I think that those who joined are category 2 banks which were the ones who had to join by 12/31/13. If the number is 106 and that represents one-third of banks "offered amnesty," then my math indicates that some 318 banks -- probably an approximate number -- were offered amnesty. If is not clear to me that any set or finite number of banks were offered amnesty. I think it was a general offer as to which banks would self-identify to join. So, it is not clear to me where the number 318 ( app.) came from.
Bryan Skarlatos, of Kostelanetz & Fink LLP in New York, who attended the conference, said the number of banks that signed letters of intent was more than expected.
“It’s a result of the banks’ desire to have some certainty regarding their status with DOJ,” Skarlatos said. “I believe that DOJ is pleased with the response to the program so far.”I don't think banks joined just to achieve certainty, although that may be one of their goals (when that certainty is cheaper than would be the alternative of not joining). They were supposed to join if they self-identified misbehavior (or at least the strong possibility would that their behavior could be construed as misbehavior). So, I think that well-counseled banks (and I am sure they were) would have joined to get a certain result that was less than the probable result if they did not join. In that sense, I don't doubt that they did desire certainty.
“She [AAG Keneally] said that every new bank in the program is a new source of information, especially on where the money went, either to other Swiss banks or banks around the world,” said Josh Ungerman of Meadows Collier Reed Cousins Crouch & Ungerman LLP in Dallas. “She said there are a lot of avenues to get information, and some are visible and some are not so visible.”The message is -- those U.S. taxpayers who have not yet outed via OVDI/P need to do so.