There used to be a few things you could really count on in life, and the complicity of Swiss banks in helping rich people screw everyone else was one of them. It took, what, 50 years for those banks to come clean about the Nazis' loot? The Nazis! Well, these days, the noose is tightening around the neck of global bankers, and even the vaunted Swiss are having some trouble staying out of the hangman's reach.
Yesterday, UBS agreed to turn over records on 19,000 of its wealthy American clients and pay $780 million in penalties for helping them evade at least $300 million in taxes and advising their clients to "stash watches, jewelry and artwork that they had bought with money hidden offshore in safe deposit boxes in Switzerland." Boy, would we love a peek inside those boxes; it'd probably be better than any exhibit at the Met, or even a dig around Sandy Weill's apartment. It's also kind of heartening that the U.S. Treasury has discovered new cash flows, if we only we felt a little better about where it'll go. Probably to help folks in Mesa, Arizona, avoid getting kicked out of homes they can't afford. Or maybe toward the "economy-stimulating" bullet train from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, so that we can keep the really stupid money flowing into the sinking City of Sin? But however you look at it, today is another day in which we feel a little bit good about not being rich.
UPDATE: Never mind. There's all kinds of legal hoops that have to be jumped through before UBS turns over really anything. And they're acting all Swiss again: "The Swiss Government has not provided any records sought under the Treaty Request, and it is not clear when, if ever, they will," an an IRS official said today.