* Position shift comes after German tax deal failed
* Swiss under pressure after Luxembourg, Austria loosen
* Banking association head hopes for U.S. deal soon
ZURICH, May 6 The Swiss Bankers Association has
dropped its outright rejection of the exchange of bank client
data with foreign tax authorities, its head was quoted as saying
Swiss bank secrecy has come under heavy fire from the United
States, France and Germany since the financial crisis.
Switzerland agreed in 2009 to share more information with
foreign authorities hunting tax cheats on request, but it has
consistently rejected an automatic exchange of data.
Patrick Odier told the Aargauer Zeitung daily paper that the
banking association's change of heart was largely down to
Germany's rejection in December of a deal to have Swiss banks
tax its citizens' assets without naming them.
Odier, who is also senior partner of Genevan private bank
Lombard Odier, said it was "pure coincidence" that Luxembourg
and Austria had both agreed last month to share data on accounts
held by foreigners, increasing the heat on Switzerland to do
"We adjusted our position in the first quarter after
numerous talks with bank representatives and came to the
conclusion at the end of March that we should no longer
categorically reject an automatic exchange of information," he
said. "But it should be introduced globally."
Swiss Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf has signalled
a similar willingness to discuss automatic exchange of
information, but the Swiss coalition government remains divided
on the issue.
The Group of 20 advanced and emerging economies endorsed
automatic exchange of tax data among nations last month, calling
it the expected new standard for how governments can help each
other to fight cross-border tax cheating.
Tax evasion has dominated European headlines in recent weeks
after admissions by a former French minister and Bayern Munich
soccer club chief Uli Hoeness that they held secret Swiss
Germany's finance minister said at the weekend that he sees
no chance of renegotiating the failed tax deal with Switzerland.
Odier said Switzerland could be ready to discuss automatic
information exchange with the European Union if it can settle
the problem of existing untaxed assets in its banks, through
amnesty programmes or other means.
"We are open for talks if we find a solution with the EU
that deals with the past and improves market access," he said.
Odier also said he hoped for a deal soon to end the dispute
between Switzerland and U.S. authorities over Swiss banks
accused of helping wealthy Americans to evade tax, but that
bank employees should be shielded from prosecution under any
Last month sources told Reuters that the Swiss and U.S.
governments were weighing a possible solution to the tax