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Banking giant UBS, US reach deal over secret Swiss accounts

Agreement averts a legal showdown, for now, over case involving US pursuit of tax evasion.

The logo of Swiss bank UBS is pictured in front of the Swiss Federal Palace in Bern in this July 9, 2009 file photo.

Michael Buholzer/Reuters/File

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Swiss banking giant UBS AG and US tax authorities appear to have avoided a looming international showdown in a Miami courtroom over Swiss bank secrecy.

A Justice Department lawyer announced Friday that the Swiss bank and US officials had reached a tentative agreement on an American government demand that UBS identify the owners of 52,000 secret Swiss accounts believed to be held by American tax evaders.

The announcement came during a telephone status conference in advance of a scheduled hearing in Miami on Monday. Justice Department lawyer Stuart Gibson, with the tax division, told US District Judge Alan Gold that the Monday hearing appeared unnecessary.

"I am reporting to the court that the parties have reached an agreement in principle on the major issues," Mr. Gibson said. "There are some other issues that need to get resolved and we expect to be able to resolve them during the coming week."

Gibson did not disclose details of the agreement.

Judge Gold postponed Monday's hearing for a week, until Aug. 10, in case the agreement falls apart. He also set another status conference for next Friday. Gibson told the judge the parties hoped to report a final agreement during that Aug. 7 status conference.

IRS wants account owners named

UBS and the Swiss government have been battling the US Internal Revenue Service for months over an IRS demand that the Swiss bank reveal the ownership of 52,000 secret accounts believed held by Americans.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey met Friday and discussed the issue. Before the meeting both said they were pleased that a tentative agreement had been reached.

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