International Financial Law Prof Blog

Editor: William Byrnes
Texas A&M University
School of Law

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Coutts to Pay Additional $27.9 Million for 311 Undisclosed Accounts, Addendum to Non-Prosecution Agreement

The Department of Justice announced that it has signed an Addendum to a non-prosecution agreement with Coutts & Co Ltd. (Coutts), a private Swiss bank headquartered in Zurich.  The original non-prosecution agreement was signed on Dec. 23, 2015. At that time, Coutts reported that it held and managed 1,337 U.S. related accounts, with assets under management exceeding $2 billion, and paid a penalty of $78,484,000. In reaching today’s agreement, Coutts acknowledges that it should have disclosed additional U.S.-related accounts to the Department at the time of the signing of the non-prosecution agreement.

“This agreement reflects our commitment to ensuring that foreign banks that participated in the Swiss Bank Program fully comply with their obligations to disclose accounts in which U.S. taxpayers have direct or indirect interests,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division. “When any person or entity makes false, incomplete, or misleading disclosures to the Department, the Department will hold those persons or entities accountable.”

The Swiss Bank Program, which was announced on Aug. 29, 2013, provided a path for Swiss banks to resolve potential criminal liabilities in the United States relating to offshore banking services provided to United States taxpayers. 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. As participants in the program, they were required to make a complete disclosure of their cross-border activities, provide detailed information on an account-by-account basis for accounts in which U.S. taxpayers had a direct or indirect interest, cooperate in treaty requests for account information, and provide detailed information about the transfer of funds into and out of U.S.-related accounts, including undeclared accounts, that identifies the sending and receiving banks involved in the transactions.

The Department executed non-prosecution agreements with 80 banks between March 2015 and January 2016. The Department imposed a total of more than $1.36 billion in Swiss Bank Program penalties.  Pursuant to today’s agreement, Coutts will pay an additional sum of $27,900,000 and will provide supplemental information regarding its U.S.-related account population, which now includes 311 additional accounts. 

Every bank that signed a non-prosecution agreement in the Swiss Bank Program had represented that it had disclosed all known U.S.-related accounts that were open at each bank between Aug. 1, 2008, and Dec. 31, 2014.  Each bank also represented that it would, during the term of the non-prosecution agreement, continue to disclose all material information relating to its U.S.-related accounts.  In reaching today’s agreement, Coutts acknowledges that there were additional U.S.-related accounts that it knew about, or should have known about, but that were not disclosed to the Department at the time of the signing of the non-prosecution agreement. Coutts has fully cooperated with the Department with respect to the additional U.S.-related accounts.

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