UBS, like most of its competitors in global private banking, has a long history of engaging in perfidious behavior, apologizing for it and then turning back to the future. This includes UBS's involvement in South Africa's apartheid debt and the accounts scandals of the 1980 involving the Marcos family; Benazir Bhutto, Mobutu Sese Seko, Holocaust victims and Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha of the 1990s; the 2001 Enron bankruptcy and the Menem scandal; the 2003 Parmalat scandal; the 2004-2006 Iran/Cuba/Saddam funds transfers scandal, for which it was fined $100 million by the Federal Reserve; the 2008 Massachusetts securities fraud case; and now the Birkenfeld matter. Furthermore, as the committee report noted, UBS has a history of violating even its own policies. From this angle, unapologetic LGT is at least not hypocritical.
It is also well to remember that UBS and LGT are hardly the only global private banks involved in recruiting wealthy clients to move money offshore. The committee report indicates a long list of other banks that also provided offshore services to American clients involved in the UBS and LGT cases—including Citibank (Swiss), HSBC, Barclays (Birkenfeld's original employer), Credit Suisse, Lloyds TSB, Standard Chartered, Banque du Gotthard, Centrum, Bank Jacob Safra and Bank of Montreal. In addition, there are dozens of other non-US and US banks that are also active in the offshore US private banking market
By James S. Henry
July 22, 2008