ZURICH (Reuters) - Credit Suisse said it would transfer more information on its money management arm for wealthy Americans to U.S. officials, including more names of its own employees, as part of an effort to settle a tax evasion probe.
For the first time, Credit Suisse employees will be told before their names are disclosed to U.S. officials, a bank spokesman said, after previous transfers of information by banks drew criticism.
The handover, which does not include names of clients, forms part of ongoing negotiations between the Swiss government and U.S. justice and tax officials, who accuse eleven Swiss private banks of helping Americans dodge taxes through hidden Swiss offshore accounts.
Transfers of information have sparked objections from Switzerland’s privacy watchdog and a legal complaint against HSBC for handing over data on its employees, which a lawyer said infringed Swiss privacy laws.
Banks including HSBC, Credit Suisse and Julius Baer have already passed on about 10,000 employee names in an attempt to avoid the fate of private bank Wegelin, which broke up in January under threat of indictment, bank employees and lawyers said.
The latest U.S. investigation has rocked the Swiss private banking industry even after a landmark settlement with UBS in 2009, which handed over the names of more than 4,000 wealthy American clients and paid $780 million after admitting wrong-doing.
UBS no longer offers offshore accounts to American clients.
Swiss officials have said U.S. elections in November could complicate a settlement - initially expected by the end of 2012 - of the dispute. Switzerland’s finance minister said a victory by presidential challenger Mitt Romney would not necessarily ease the talks.
The mood among Swiss bankers, many of whom have shelved travel plans outside Switzerland for fear of being arrested in connection with the U.S. probe, has become more tense as negotiations drag on.
Reporting By Katharina Bart; Editing by Helen Massy-Beresford