Something Is Rotten In The Confederation of Helvetica

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It was the little mouse that roared. Again. Liechtenstein, darling principality and sometime haven for revenues seeking shelter from Departments of Inland (and Outland) Revenue, neatly slid the thin blade of a double edged dagger between Switzerland's sixth and seventh rib. The tiny country announced today that it would push through legislation to cooperate with OECD countries with respect to information sharing standards on tax data. Switzerland, which has been taking a hard line on the issue, seems to have been caught unaware and increasingly finds herself standing out alone and in the cold.
Switzerland has much to lose in this fight and is presently looking at its third major recessionary trigger. First was the significant exposure of the larger Swiss banks to toxic financial waste minted in the United States. Second, and currently beginning to unwind at a frightening pace, is her significant exposure to Eastern European debt denominated in Swiss Franc. Now this. The more pessimistic analysts believe that up to half of Switzerland's deposits might flee the country if banking secrecy laws are badly gelded there. Considering that many of her larger institutions have been relying on their asset management divisions as the "crown jewels" of their portfolios, one wonders what lurks just around the bend.
Liechtenstein had considerably less to lose. After some rather insidious and clever espionage by German authorities to uncover the names of German citizens with deposits in Liechtenstein (in violation of Liechtenstein and, arguably, German law) Liechtenstein's deposits have drained consistently. It was quite easy, therefore, for them to take the "high road." Their reputation for banking secrecy was already in tatters after having been so brutally penetrated by the Germans. Leaving aside for a moment the historical irony implicit in the German intelligence apparatus snooping for names on Swiss accounts, it looks like banking secrecy in Central and Western Europe is going to be limited to Luxembourg. Where in the hell are we going to ski?

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