February 18, 2009

Swiss bank to pay U.S. $780 million

Switzerland's largest bank, UBS, will pay the United States $780 million for helping U.S. taxpayers hide money from the IRS, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

The U.S. Justice Department said in a news release that the Swiss bank has entered into a deferred prosecution agreement on charges of conspiring to defraud the United States by impeding the Internal Revenue Service. The agreement was accepted by a U.S. District Court judge in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

In an unprecedented move, UBS, based on an order by the Swiss Financial Markets Supervisory Authority, also has agreed to immediately provide the U.S. government with the names and account information of certain of its U.S. customers, the Justice Department said.

UBS also agreed to expeditiously get out of the business of providing banking services to U.S. clients with undeclared accounts.

The $780 million UBS will pay is in fines, penalties, interest and restitution.

According to court documents, UBS's efforts to defraud the U.S. government started after it purchased the brokerage firm Paine Webber in 2000.

The charge against the bank will be dropped, provided the bank fully carries out its obligations under the agreement.

UBS executive Raoul Weil, who was indicted on fraud conspiracy charges last November, was recently declared a fugitive.

Last June, former UBS private banker Bradley Birkenfeld pleaded guilty to a fraud conspiracy. He is to be sentenced May 1.