Swiss Banks Terminate Accounts of Foreign Clients as Costs Climb

Some Swiss banks are canceling the accounts of all foreign customers, while many are getting rid of clients liable to pay taxes in the U.S., the Swiss banking ombudsman said.

“With regards to clients with the U.S. status, this is clearly a broad trend” among Swiss banks, Hanspeter Haeni told reporters in Zurich today. “Some banks are also terminating relations with clients from European countries.”

Haeni said his office has received complaints from foreign clients of a “medium-sized” Swiss bank, which sent letters on June 22 notifying them that their accounts would be terminated by the end of this month. Haeni said he isn’t allowed to disclose the name of the bank, which told clients the move came as a stricter regulatory environment pushes up compliance costs.

Some foreign clients also see banks raising fees for their accounts, Haeni said. The ombudsman has no influence over fees or account termination because they involve business decisions of the banks, he said.

“However, we see ourselves prompted time and again to ask the banks to give these clients the necessary time to orientate themselves,” Haeni said.

Haeni has been the banking ombudsman since September 1995, acting as an independent mediator between clients and banks based in Switzerland on specific complaints.

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