The US Department of Justice announced recently that Edmond de Rothschild (Suisse) SA and Edmond de Rothschild (Lugano) SA (collectively EdR Switzerland) reached a joint resolution under the department’s Swiss Bank Program. EdR Switzerland will pay a penalty of more than $45 million.
The Swiss Bank Program alllows Swiss banks to resolve potential criminal liabilities in the United States. Swiss banks eligible to enter the program were required to advise the department by Dec. 31, 2013, that they had reason to believe that they had committed tax-related criminal offenses in connection with undeclared U.S.-related accounts. Banks already under criminal investigation related to their Swiss-banking activities and all individuals were expressly excluded from the program.
For decades prior to and through 2013, EdR Switzerland aided and assisted U.S. clients in opening and maintaining undeclared accounts in Switzerland and concealing the assets and income they held in these accounts. In accordance with the terms of the Swiss Bank Program, EdR Switzerland mitigated its penalty by encouraging U.S. accountholders to come into compliance with their U.S. tax and disclosure obligations. While U.S. accountholders at EdR Switzerland who have not yet declared their accounts to the IRS may still be eligible to participate in the IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program, the price of such disclosure has increased.
Most U.S. taxpayers who enter the IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program to resolve undeclared offshore accounts will pay a penalty equal to 27.5 percent of the high value of the accounts. On Aug. 4, 2014, the IRS increased the penalty to 50 percent if, at the time the taxpayer initiated their disclosure, either a foreign financial institution at which the taxpayer had an account or a facilitator who helped the taxpayer establish or maintain an offshore arrangement had been publicly identified as being under investigation, the recipient of a John Doe summons or cooperating with a government investigation, including the execution of a deferred prosecution agreement or non-prosecution agreement. With today’s announcement of this non-prosecution agreement, noncompliant U.S. accountholders at EdR Switzerland must now pay that 50 percent penalty to the IRS if they wish to enter the IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program.