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Finma’s Branson Urges Swiss Banks to Change Business Practices

Banks will face higher fines and sanctions until they change the way they do business, said Mark Branson, the head of Switzerland’s financial regulator.

Legal enforcement is “getting more popular internationally,” Branson said at a press conference in Bern today. “One can speak of inflation in legal and regulatory sanctions.”

The U.S. alone has fined financial institutions more than $85 billion since 2009 and yet hasn’t made a lasting impression on how banks and their employees do business, Branson said. “Further escalation is therefore looming,” said the head of the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority, or FINMA.

Credit Suisse Group AG (CSGN), Switzerland’s second-biggest bank, last month was fined $2.6 billion after its main Swiss banking unit pleaded guilty to helping Americans evade taxes. The U.S. is conducting similar investigations of other Swiss banks, including Julius Baer Group Ltd. (BAER) and Zuercher Kantonalbank.

Branson urged Swiss banks to stay on top of legal and reputational risks in their dealings with other countries. Finma has opened 10 enforcement procedures in connection with cross-border U.S. business and ordered corrective measures in seven cases, he said. Two investigations are still open and one was closed because the company gave up its banking license. The regulator also takes measures against people, such as an occupational ban, if it can prove individual misconduct, Branson said.

“The legal system in Switzerland still generally allows business with undeclared money of foreigners,” he said. “It’s not part of our task to make a political judgment over the question of who is responsible for the business model that has been practiced in Switzerland for decades and has been tolerated, and in part supported, not only by the banks and their employees but also by the authorities and politics.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Elena Logutenkova in Bern at elogutenkova@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Frank Connelly at fconnelly@bloomberg.net Cindy Roberts, Keith Campbell

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