The News: UBS Survival Endangered By Tax Probe, Says Top Swiss Official

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Is it just brinkmanship...or a real crisis in the making? UBS could "fail" if the United States continues to push for access to information about tax evasion by thousands of its clients, the Swiss government's top law enforcement official warns.

"The Swiss economy and the job market would suffer on a major scale if UBS fails as a result of its licence being revoked in the United States," Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf told Le Matin Dimanche newspaper, as relayed by AFP.

The U.S. and Swiss governments had worked out a deal for UBS to turn over information on 4,500 account holders who might have evaded U.S. taxes. However, the Swiss courts blocked the transfer on grounds that country's banking secrecy laws that protect foreign tax evaders are sacrosanct.

"The actions of UBS in the United States are very problematic. Not just because they are punishable but also because they threaten all of the bank's activities," Widmer-Schlumpf said.

Amid all the talk in Europe of crafting a harmonized global regime to rein in bankers' Wild West impulses, seeing one of the world's leading banking centers stake its biggest institution's survival on an alleged "right" to violate other countries' tax laws feels like something you'd see on Saturday Night Live. Unfortunately, it's no joke.

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