* BCV, BCGE, Zuger, Graubuendner, Luzerner, St. Galler KB to
* St. Galler says negotiations may end in late 2014
* Deadline to take up U.S. offer is Dec 31
* About 100 Swiss banks expected to participate
ZURICH, Dec 16 Several Swiss regional banks said
on Monday they would cooperate with U.S. officials to avoid
prosecution in a crackdown on Swiss lenders suspected of helping
wealthy Americans evade taxes through offshore accounts.
Banque Cantonale Vaudoise (BCV), Banque Cantonale
de Geneve (BCGE), St. Galler Kantonalbank,
Zuger Kantonalbank, Luzerner Kantonalbank and
Graubuendner Kantonalbank said they were participating
in the programme.
BCV's subsidiary Piguet Galland & Cie SA and St. Galler KB's
subsidiaries Hyposwiss Privatbank Zurich AG and Hyposwiss
Private Bank Geneve SA also decided to join the deal.
About a dozen banks have now come forward to say they are
participating in the scheme brokered by the Swiss and U.S.
governments this summer to allow banks to make amends for aiding
tax evasion by paying fines and disclosing information.
All the cantonal banks that said on Monday that they would
join the scheme said they had never focused on acquiring U.S.
clients but said they could not completely rule out some
customers had not met their U.S. tax obligations.
St. Galler KB said it would deliver data about its U.S.
business that would not include client data to U.S. authorities
by the end of June 2014. Based on this information, the U.S.
Department of Justice would enter into individual negotiations
with the bank that should end "at the earliest in late 2014".
The bank said it could not communicate on the expected
amount of fines and corresponding provisions, but intended at
this stage to leave its dividend unchanged.
BCGE said it estimated its 2013 profits should remain at a
level equivalent to 2012. It had warned in September costs
related to the U.S. programme could impact its profitability.
The cantonal banks said they would join the programme in a
category for banks that admit or at least cannot rule out that
some U.S. clients had untaxed money in their accounts.
About 100 banks are expected to take part in the scheme by
the end of the year. They will have to face penalties of up to
50 percent of untaxed assets they managed for U.S. clients.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) warned Swiss banks in a
statement last week that they took the risk of being targeted
and prosecuted if they didn't join the programme.
Several Swiss banks, including Credit Suisse and
Julius Baer, are already under formal criminal
investigation in the United States. Their cases have been frozen
pending a solution for the wider Swiss banking sector.