19 February 2009

What Did You Say Is the Name of Your Bank?

I am fantasizing this afternoon about the possibilities. Ahhhhhh, the nearly limitless possibilities.
The Obama administration is going after that big fat Swiss bank, UBS, filing a lawsuit in a Miami federal court forcing the bank to turn over records of wealthy Americans who have been hiding their money over there and in doing so, avoiding paying their share of federal taxes.
Most of us can be quite happy about this because of course, we don't have enough money to make it worthwhile to hide it and attempt to evade taxes. So it's time to smile and let the government chase down these big, fat tax evaders.
The U.S. Attorney General's office, in prosecuting the banker-weasels ("Oh, poor UBS! They lost millions in the mortgage meltdown and now they have this happen?" No, I don't believe anybody is saying that.) expects to recover close to a billion dollars. And that's just the recovered taxes at about $380 Billion; another $400 Billion is penalties. But oh! The loss of face and future business!
The Swiss banking industry has functioned for decades on their reputation for keeping secrets. The UBS case is particularly egregious because apparently, they didn't just look the other way. They actively advised wealthy Americans on how to avoid paying taxes. And they never identified customers. Ever. Absolute secrecy was their promise. They no longer can make that claim. Although they are expected to fight the loss of their neutral status. I mean, seriously, what's next? Having to take a stand against Nazis?
And why did our government let it slide, because apparently, we thought all Americans are honest taxpayers? No, no indeed. "Git 'em!"
An estimated $14.8 Billion in American-owned cash has been stashed in UBS alone. The government is only going to get the names of about 250-300 customers from the bankers. The actual estimate, when the documents were filed forcing the bank to cooperate was that some 20-thousand Americans were hiding money along with other financial gains in the bank. But then a day later, with no explanation, the government more than doubled its estimate.
"At a time when millions of Americans are losing their jobs, their homes, and their health care, it is appalling that more than 52,000 of the wealthiest among us have actively sought to evade their civil and legal duty to pay taxes," the acting assistant attorney general, John DiCicco, said in a statement."
I like that word, "appalling." It's almost adequate, isn't it? One sort of hopes that these 52-thousand Americans are squirming right now, wondering will they be among the 250 unluckiest people in the world... the ones unmasked as being task cheats by the bank that formerly protected them. I like to think of all 52-thousand tossing and turning, at the very least.
My goodness, banking in Switzerland is now almost as dangerous financially as being nominated for high political office in the Obama administration.

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