Any suggestions that UBS, Switzerland’s biggest bank, is prepared to meekly accept the relentless pressure brought to bear on the Alpine state by foreign powers over its banking secrecy have been squashed by the firm’s chief executive.
Attacks on Switzerland are a form of "economic war" by rival nations who want to hurt the country’s status as a financial center, UBS CEO Sergio Ermotti told Swiss newspaper SonntagsZeitung yesterday.
“Switzerland has been attacked since 2008. We are in the middle of an economic war," Ermotti was quoted as saying. "The goal is to weaken the financial centre of Switzerland."
"It's about weakening the two big Swiss banks which are internationally successful... Not only foreign politicians but also our competitors around the world have an interest in the attacks on Switzerland," he said.
The remarks are the most outspoken that Ermotti has made since taking up the job of UBS chief executive last November. The bank, which has seen its fortunes recover in recent quarters, had been embroiled in a high-profile tax case in the US, settling with the authorities there over criminal and civil charges of helping US citizens evade tax. As part of those settlements in 2009, UBS agreed to pass over some client details to US authorities, a move seen as a partial breach of Switzerland’s centuries-old banking secrecy traditions.