The Federal Supreme Court recently confirmed the possibility of freezing the assets of a debtor at the registered seat of a Swiss bank where the debtor is a client of the bank's foreign branch. While banks are often not allowed to control the bank accounts of their foreign branches because of regulatory prohibitions, the head office is regularly informed of certain activities taking place abroad, including the seizure of assets.
The Federal Financial Services Act aims to enhance customer protection while providing additional means in case of disputes. The Federal Financial Institutions Act aims to regulate the supervision of financial service providers offering asset management services. In principle, the rules for financial institutions that already require a licence will be taken over from applicable legislation, but will be harmonised according to activity.
The Swiss Bankers Association recently amended guidelines for the examination, evaluation and treatment of loans guaranteed by pledges on real estate and guidelines on minimum requirements for mortgages. The guidelines apply to both owner-occupied residential properties and investment property apartment buildings.
In a recent decision the Federal Supreme Court specified that a bank is not required to monitor transactions carried out by a client on its bank account, according to the Federal Anti-money Laundering Act. A bank must ensure that the agent's actions are covered by a valid proxy. It is the client's responsibility to control the agent's actions. The bank must intervene only if it is certain that the agent is clearly acting to the detriment of the principal.
The Swiss Bankers Association recently adopted revised Portfolio Management Guidelines. The new guidelines are self-regulatory trade regulations applicable to banks. The guidelines include specific mention of repurchase and reverse repurchase transactions, as well as securities lending and borrowing transactions. Provisions regarding the remuneration of the bank have also been amended.
The Swiss government adopted a draft bill (Lex USA) that aimed to put an end to the tax dispute between the United States and Swiss banks that have allegedly helped clients to avoid US taxes. In June 2013 the Federal Parliament rejected the Lex USA, mainly because it was based on a unilateral US programme that Parliament considered too far reaching.
The Federal Administrative Court recently ruled on the conditions that must be fulfilled in order for Switzerland to grant administrative assistance to the United States with regard to banking clients which have allegedly committed tax fraud with the help of a bank. Among other things, it emphasised that mutual assistance must be consistent with the principle of proportionality and fishing expeditions are therefore prohibited.
The Federal Supreme Court recently rendered two landmark decisions regarding the extension of banking clients' options to obtain information, including internal documents, from banks. The court specified and expanded the information that must be passed onto banking clients. It also showed that the Federal Act on Data Protection could help clients looking for information held by a bank upstream of judicial proceedings.