Pretty big deal, this settlement where UBS, the biggest private bank in the world, is going to start throwing its secret-bank-accouht customers under the bus. The Swiss giant has fought the U.S. tooth-and-nail in efforts to maintain client privacy. Word comes now that the jig is up.
This from the NY Times: "Of the names on the agency's original list, prosecutors are focused on several thousand Americans with offshore accounts containing tens to hundreds of millions of dollars."
This additional detail from the WSJ: Lawyers involved in the case now believe UBS will agree to turn over some 8,000 to 10,000 account identities. IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman is quoted: "We will release more details when the Swiss government signs the agreement as early as next week."
The U.S. government originally had sought the names of 52,000 account holders it suspected of tax evasion. Lucky and/or savvy UBS Swiss account holders have already taken advantage of an amnesty program rolled out earlier this year in which they were allowed to come clean and pay fines, presumably avoiding criminal tax-evasion charges. UBS is taking it on the chin here -- it's a blow to its business and the bank a few months ago agreed to a $780 million fine for hiding $50 billion in customer deposits.
The deal announced today is a victory for tax-evasion prosecutors and critics of the long-sacrosanct "offshore banking industry," a scam by any other name, and it represents perhaps the first serious nail in the coffin for the tradition by which wealthy people hide their assets.