UBS says positioned to adapt to bank secrecy shift

ZURICH Thu May 3, 2012 5:24am EDT

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ZURICH May 3 (Reuters) - UBS's outgoing chairman will tell shareholders the Swiss bank is better positioned to adapt to the erosion of Swiss banking secrecy than rivals, at an investor meeting later on Thursday.

"UBS, due to its international diversification and ability to distribute costs over large volumes, will be more capable of adapting to this," Kaspar Villiger will tell shareholders according to prepared remarks.

A global crackdown on tax evasion by cash-strapped governments in recent years has chipped away at Switzerland's tradition of banking secrecy, which helped it build up a $2 trillion offshore wealth management industry.

Eleven Swiss banks - including Credit Suisse and Julius Baer - are under investigation by the United States for aiding U.S. citizens suspected of tax dodging. The investigation was fed by data culled through a crackdown against UBS, which that bank settled in 2009 by handing over thousands of client data, paying a fine and admitting wrong-doing.

Echoing past statements, Villiger urged Switzerland to reject an automatic exchange of bank client data as is the practice in most of the European Union. Switzerland is currently seeking withholding tax agreements with European nations, part of a clean-money strategy to stave off demands for automatically delivering client data, which contravenes Swiss banking law.

"Switzerland must not breach its decades-old obligation of banking data and confidentiality. This is why it must not accept a solution which provides no reasonable means of regularizing the past," Villiger will tell shareholders.

Neither remarks prepared for Villiger nor those of Chief Executive Sergio Ermotti touch on banker pay, expected to be the focus on investor ire at the meeting. (Reporting by Katharina Bart; Editing by Mark Potter)

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