* Bank Coop, Migros Bank, Linth plan to co-operate with U.S.
* Up to 100 Swiss private banks expected to take up deal
ZURICH Dec 11 Three more Swiss banks said they
would work with U.S. officials in a crackdown on wealthy
Americans evading taxes through hidden offshore accounts, a
trickle that could rise to about one third of the country's
The number that participate in the government-brokered
scheme is important for larger banks facing criminal
investigations in the United States, such as Credit Suisse
, Julius Baer and Pictet & Cie.
These banks' talks with U.S. justice officials to settle
their cases have been frozen pending a solution for the wider
Swiss banking sector.
If the U.S. deems its deal with Switzerland a failure
because too few banks come forward to make amends for aiding tax
evasion, it is likely to hold up settlements for the larger
The deal for second-tier banks, agreed in August, is part of
a U.S. drive to lift the veil of Swiss bank secrecy which in
2009 led to UBS paying $780 million in a settlement
where the bank agreed to hand over U.S. client names with secret
Bank Coop, Migros Bank, and Linth Bank
said on Tuesday they would participate in the U.S.
They join Valiant Holding and Berner Kantonalbank
, two mainly retail banks, that have also said they
would take part. Zurich-based private bank and securities firm
Vontobel Holding AG is also participating, but has put
itself in a category of institutions that have not committed any
U.S. tax-related offences and are therefore exempt from penalty
Banks had until Monday to inform the Swiss regulator of
Peter V. Kunz, professor of business law at Berne
University, told Reuters on Tuesday he thought about 100 of the
country's 300-plus private banks would participate.
The vast majority of Switzerland's private banks such as
Geneva-based Lombard Odier & Cie are not listed on the stock
market, meaning they are under no obligation to publicly
disclose how they plan to deal with the U.S. tax crackdown.
Eleven listed banks, such as private banks EFG International
and VP Bank and a host of small, largely retail
players including local government-backed cantonal banks, have
yet to tell shareholders what they intend to do.
The U.S. scheme, which lapses at the year-end, requires
banks to hand over some previously hidden information and face
penalties of up to 50 percent of assets they managed on behalf
of wealthy Americans. If the banks shun the offer, individual
firms and senior staff risk criminal prosecution.
Coop, majority-owned by Basler Kantonalbank which
is among the banks in the crosshairs of U.S. prosecutors, said
staying out of the programme was too risky.
Coop took a 9 million Swiss franc ($10.14 million) provision
and said it had only a few customers who were based in the
United States, whose assets amounted to less than 0.3 percent of
Migros said it was coming forward following comments from
the Swiss regulator, which told banks they should err on the
side of caution in judging their dealings with American clients.
Linth said it is entering the program in an effort to bring
the matter to a swift conclusion.