BSI of Lugano, Switzerland, became the first bank to earn a non-prosecution agreement under the U.S. DOJ’s Program for Swiss Banks, paying a penalty of $211 million. First announced on August 29, 2013, the program offered Switzerland-based banks that were not under criminal investigation the opportunity to avoid criminal investigation and prosecution in return for fully disclosing their dealings with U.S. accountholders and paying a penalty, among other conditions. Over 100 Swiss banks entered the program. According to the DOJ’s press release:
BSI helped its U.S. clients create sham corporations and trusts that masked the true identity of its U.S. accountholders. Many of its U.S. clients also opened “numbered” Swiss bank accounts that shielded their identities, even from employees within the Swiss bank. BSI acknowledged that in order to help keep identities secret, it issued credit or debit cards to many U.S. accountholders without names visible on the card itself.
BSI not only helped U.S. clients shield their identity from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). but helped them repatriate cash as well. BSI admitted that its relationship managers and their U.S. clients used code words in emails to gain access to funds. BSI disclosed instances where its U.S. clients would use coded language, such as asking their private bankers, “can you download some tunes for us?” or note that their “gas tank is running empty” when they required additional cash to be loaded to their cards . . . . BSI had more than 3,000 active United States-related accounts after 2008, many of which it knew were not disclosed in the United States. In resolving its criminal liabilities under the program, BSI provided extensive cooperation and encouraged hundreds of U.S. accountholders to come into compliance. BSI is also assisting with ongoing treaty requests.
Presumably, similar announcements from the other 100+ banks will be forthcoming.