20090327 ubs sign 85526018 18
A road sign in front of a UBS branch in Geneva, Switzerland - 

TEXT OF STORY

Bob Moon: Ah, it's such a thankless job being a big corporate banker these days. But if it's tough here, imagine living in fear you might be arrested if you dare set foot out of your country. That's the worry for Swiss banking executives. The U.S. has been cracking down on overseas tax havens, and Switzerland's biggest bank, UBS, has already agreed to pay $780 million in fines for helping American clients hide their money. The Financial Times is reporting that all the attention is causing Swiss banks to ban travel by top executives for fear they could be detained. Christopher Werth has more.


christohpher Werth: The precedent was set when U.S. authorities detained a senior UBS staff member travelling through Miami last year. It was part of an investigation into whether the bank was helping U.S. citizens hide their assets in Swiss accounts.

Earlier this month, the Swiss government agreed to revise its banking secrecy laws. Cedric Tille of the Graduate Institute in Geneva says the decision was made partly out of fear of landing on a blacklist at the G20 summit, which meets next week.

Cedric Tille: There was a sense that the G20, especially if they cannot agree on world trade or the big issues, will be tempted to say, well we have to come up with something to the final press conference, so let's just point the finger at the little financial centers, and that makes us look like we actually did something.

To stay off that blacklist, Swiss officials have agreed to adopt standards for international cooperation on tax evasion, which the country itself does not consider to be a crime.

In London, I'm Christopher Werth for Marketplace.