The SIX Swiss Exchange recently announced that it is building a fully end-to-end and fully integrated trading, settlement and custody infrastructure for digital assets. The planned 'digital asset ecosystem' – the SIX Digital Exchange (SDX) – will put banks at the heart of transactions in the digital space and offer them a solid foundation to pursue their business strategies for digital and tokenised assets; however, their role in the future SDX remain unclear.
The Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) recently published a supervisory notification on token sales and initial coin offerings (ICOs). It also announced that it was examining whether several ICOs or their corresponding business models violate supervisory provisions. A FINMA press release cited the marked increase in ICOs carried out in Switzerland in recent months as a reason for its action.
The revised Banking Ordinance of April 30 2014 regarding new financial technology (fintech) regulations recently entered into force. The purpose of the proposed revisions is to enhance the competitiveness of Switzerland as a major fintech hub and to create an appropriate regulatory framework for fintech companies providing services outside traditional banking business by taking into account the specific risk-profile of their business models and service offering.
The Federal Council recently adopted an amendment to the Banking Ordinance scheduled to enter into force on August 1 2017. Following the announcement of the revised rules, the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority published a guidance note regarding the new rules on public deposits. The revision will reduce some of the barriers to market entry for financial technology firms.
The Federal Council recently announced its intention to strengthen the existing deposit protection scheme through a series of different measures. The council also intends to strengthen the regulations on the protection of securities and other assets deposited by clients with a bank or securities dealer by introducing a new obligation to keep those assets segregated from other clients' assets on a sub-custodian level, to the extent that the chain of custody is in Switzerland.
The Federal Council recently initiated a consultation procedure on new financial technology (fintech) regulations. The revised provisions ensure that barriers to market entry for fintech firms are reduced and that Switzerland's competitiveness as a financial centre is maintained. The consultation will end on May 8 2017. The proposed amendments to the Banking Act and the Banking Ordinance aim to ease the regulatory framework for innovative fintech companies, while taking into account potential risks.
When the Financial Market Infrastructure Act and the Financial Market Infrastructure Ordinance came into effect, specific transitional periods were granted to fulfil new duties, as well extended record-keeping duties for banks as participants on trading venues regarding securities transactions. As organised facilities that are not subject to authorisation may be operated only by banks, securities dealers, stock exchanges or multilateral trading venues, these changes will affect banks significantly.
According to the Banking Act, several financial technology business models carry out some sort of banking business where a full banking licence would be too expensive and would not reflect the business model properly. As a result, the Financial Market Supervisory Authority supports a new licensing category for financial innovators carrying out some banking activities, but with limited acceptance of client assets and no lending activity.
According to the Federal Act on the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA), if FINMA detects a serious violation of supervisory provisions it may prohibit the individual responsible from acting in a management capacity over any person or entity subject to its supervision. FINMA has announced that it will use enforcement action as a visible means of achieving its supervisory objectives.
The Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority recently issued a factsheet on crowdfunding, in which it examined when crowdfunding platform operators and project developers must obtain a licence before commencing activities. It has also proposed to introduce into law a new category of banking licence that will formally place crowdfunding platform operators under its supervision while alleviating constraints.
A recent amendment to the Federal Act on Banks and Saving Banks has increased criminal liability for the violation of banking secrecy. Previously, although the theft, sale or transfer of bank data was prohibited, third parties benefiting from stolen data were not penalised. Under the amended act, intentional disclosure of data covered by banking secrecy will be subject to a penalty of up to three years' imprisonment or a monetary fine.
The federal government has published the results of the consultation on the Financial Services Act and the Financial Institutions Act. It instructed the Federal Department of Finance to carry out various adjustments regarding enforcement and draw up a dispatch by the end of the year. It has also taken initial decisions on the direction to be taken regarding the controversial topics in the consultation procedure.
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 Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) recently published a position paper regarding the resolution of global systemically important banks. The paper explains FINMA's emergency strategy for the global systemically important banks in Switzerland and outlines ways in which salvage or break-up can be implemented operationally in cooperation with foreign supervisory and resolution authorities.
Swiss law has implemented a privately operated deposit protection system based on preferential treatment, accelerated pay-outs and a guarantee by the deposit protection scheme. The law does not provide a state guarantee for the deposit protection system. However, participating members must hold sufficient liquid assets to cover half of their maximum contribution obligations and the minimum level of liquidity prescribed by law.
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.
The Federal Supreme Court recently rendered a landmark decision regarding the restitution to banking clients of commission received from funds or producers of financial products by banks acting as asset managers for their distribution services. In reaction, the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority issued a newsletter on supervisory measures addressed to banks.
The Federal Supreme Court recently rendered two decisions regarding banks' duties of care and fidelity in the distribution of financial products. The court confirmed its established case law, but provided interesting insights into particular issues linked to the distribution of capital-protected structured products within the framework of an advisory relationship.
The Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority recently circulated a complete draft revision of the Ordinance on the Bankruptcy of Banks and Securities Dealers. The review was deemed necessary as a result of a series of amendments to the Federal Banking Act regarding the protection of depositors. However, the amendments to the act do not completely achieve the government's objective of full protection for depositors.
Switzerland and the United Kingdom have signed a cooperation agreement on taxation and financial markets. The agreement aims to regularise untaxed assets while preserving Swiss banking secrecy, and to curb the extent to which information is exchanged in relation to tax matters.
Switzerland and Germany have signed a cooperation agreement regarding the area of taxation and financial markets. The agreement aims to regularise untaxed assets while preserving Swiss banking secrecy, and to curb the extent to which information is exchanged in relation to tax matters. The agreement covers assets held by the clients at banks, brokers, PostFinance and asset managers in Switzerland. However, the agreement will mainly concern banks.
The Zurich district court recently issued a decision on the liability of a major Swiss bank in relation to securities sale orders. The court found the bank liable for damages which occurred when the bank refused to execute an order to sell the securities of a US-owned client company because its assets had been frozen by the US tax administration. The court considered the bank to be in breach of contract and imposed a considerable penalty.
The Federal Supreme Court recently published a decision regarding the issue of a bank's liability where its client transacts on derivatives markets. The court confirmed its established case law on the subject, but the case serves to remind banks of the importance of drafting general and specific terms and conditions in an adequate way, so as to avoid liability issues in particular cases.
The Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) has issued a position paper on legal and reputational risks in cross-border financial services. The paper could indicate a significant change in FINMA's traditionally liberal attitude towards cross-border transactions out of Switzerland.
SwissBanking – the Swiss bankers' association – has adopted a revised version of its Portfolio Management Guidelines. The revised guidelines, which were previously approved by the Financial Market Supervisory Authority, introduce major amendments regarding conflicts of interest and remuneration.
The Federal Supreme Court recently ruled on the issue of a bank's liability where it acts as a de facto body of one of its clients. It confirmed the established case law on the subject in a decision which will allow banks to continue to advise companies which are in difficulty without incurring the liability of a de facto body.
The Financial Market Supervisory Authority has issued a new circular stipulating minimum standards for financial institutions' remuneration schemes, thereby meeting the requirements of the Financial Stability Board and other international bodies. This update defines the scope of the circular's application and presents the main principles set out therein.
The agreement between Switzerland and the United States settling the UBS Case has entered into force. The settlement ensures compliance with the tax convention with the United States by applying a broad interpretation of the term 'tax fraud or the like' found in the two countries' agreement on double taxation.
In February 2009 the identities and account details of around 300 clients of UBS were transmitted to the US authorities following a decision of the Financial Market Supervisory Authority. The legality of this decision is being challenged before the Federal Administrative Supreme Court. Taxpayers with bank accounts in Switzerland would be well advised to monitor these developments closely.
The Financial Market Supervisory Authority has released a report on the issues raised by 'distribution compensation', the term used to describe practices whereby banks or independent asset managers receive benefits from originators of financial products in exchange for their distribution services. Where the distribution partners also have loyalty duties towards their clients, conflicts of interest can arise.
Due to the ongoing financial crisis, the federal government has announced a set of measures intended to strengthen the Swiss financial system. The government plans to increase the protection offered by the rules on privileged deposits by increasing the amount privileged in the event of bankruptcy. A complete revision of the privileged deposits system is also planned.
The Agreement on the Code of Conduct for Swiss Banks on the Exercise of Due Diligence sets out principles regarding the fight against money laundering and the prohibitions on active assistance in the flight of capital and tax evasion and similar acts. The latest version of the agreement, which is revised every five years, will come into force on July 1 2008.
The Swiss Federal Banking Commission appointed a working group composed of representatives from banks and from the Money Laundering Reporting Office to examine whether further regulation to combat money laundering and terrorist financing was required. The working group proposed changes to the Money Laundering Ordinance and put forward recommendations for amendments to the Swiss Banking Code of Conduct.