John Christensen ■ TJN on Switzerland: “Shallow, ignorant and short-sighted”
We have just received the following email from Concerned American, resident in Switzerland. Her/his wrath is directed at our director, John Christensen, who was interviewed on CNN yesterday and – amongst other things – discussed the latest report on Swiss banks from the US Senate Permanent Committee on Investigations.
Our correspondent cites the Financial Secrecy Index, which ranks Switzerland at number one, but also notes that we highlighted the dominant position of the UK secrecy jurisdictions which, erm, does slightly undermine her/his argument that we constantly pick on plucky little Switzerland.
We are quite used to criticisms of our Financial Secrecy Index – nearly always made in general terms, without reference to specifics. In our experience, when we get down to the nitty-gritty details of what the index actually does and says, the objections melt away. Still, in the interest of balance, we feel we should publish Concerned American’s concerns in full.
Now read on . . .
From: Concerned American, Swiss resident
Sent: 28 February 2014 12:57
Subject: Unfair focus on Switzerland
After seeing Mr Christensen’s interview on CNN, I have to remark on how shallow, ignorant, and short sighted he seems. When speaking about tax havens, he frequently referred to Switzerland. However, despite the incorrect assumption of him, and many others, who speak without fully understanding, Swiss banks have very rigid “know your customer” internal regulations. This is precisely why organizations such as World Check exist. Swiss banks may have secrecy, but what they really have is a stable environment coupled with financial expertise. Why worry about which clients you have? Reputation. Are there injustices? Yes, but to the extent that Mr. Christensen and others would like the public to believe, no.
So who is among the most corrupt and one of the largest tax havens in the world? The United States! With LLCs that hide non resident alien information to states such as Delaware and Nevada, there are billions kept in the US. The bottom line is that the US doesn’t care about tax fairness, etc. It cares about keeping wealth (not just taxes) in the US. Why the focus on Switzerland? Where is a third of the oil traded and about a quarter of the world’s wealth managed? You guessed it, Switzerland. The US wants a share of the pie, plain and simple.
Now if there’s any doubt as to where corruption is largest, consider the net worth of members of US congress. Most of them have net worths in excess of $100 million. How do you think these members of congress accumulate all their wealth? Are they all such brilliant business people, entrepreneurs, etc? No, not really. What they are is a means to make what other people and companies want, become a reality….in exchange for a “gift” of course.
I’m not in the financial services sector in any way shape or means. I am a US citizen that [sic] is patriotic yet I am a legal resident of Switzerland. I can tell you, the people of Switzerland are fed up with foreign governments bulling [sic] them to give up what their legal and cultural values entitle them. The beginning of the pushback? The recent vote to stop massive immigration of mainly EU citizens into Switzerland.
In the future, expect that there will be more measures taken to be treated fairly and without bullying by those jealous of this little small country.
Oh, by the way, since you are from the UK, maybe you should start by looking at the your own country (which I know you have acknowledged is the #1 financial secrecy organization. Next time you’re on CNN, use examples such as the UK, Cayman Islands, etc. At least you won’t SEEM quite as biased as you are against Switzerland.
We could add any number of points to this. First, as he points out, as he acknowledges, we have fingered the UK as the most important single player in the offshore system of tax havens. Second, to argue the Swiss position of ‘we are a small plucky country standing up to big bullies’ is to misunderstand what is going on here. For one thing, this is not a battle between one country and another. It is a battle between the world’s wealthiest élites and ordinary citizens and taxpayers, the world over. And Swiss banks are firmly on the side of the élites against the citizens.
Not only that, but countries do indeed have sovereign rights to set up their tax and secrecy systems as they see fit.
But when those tax and secrecy systems attack and undermine the laws of other jurisdictions, don’t come crying to us when those jurisdictions take aggressive countermeasures to defend themselves.
In the case of the United States, Swiss bankers have been strutting about in the lion’s den. Now they are complaining that there is a lion in there.
And another thing. If Switzerland really wants us to believe it is no longer a secrecy jurisdiction, then why not do the honourable thing? Repeal the banking secrecy laws. Stop victimising whistleblowers on criminality. And issue a full national apology to the world’s citizens.