Bank secrecy in Switzerland

What is bank secrecy in Switzerland? Can we still talk of bank secrecy in Switzerland? Bank secrecy in Switzerland is governed by art. 47 of the Banking Act and by art. 43 of the Stock Exchange Act.

Art. 47 of the Banking Act provides as follows: “Whoever intentionally does the following shall be imprisoned up to three years or fined accordingly:

  1. discloses confidential information entrusted to them in their capacity as a member of an executive or supervisory body, employee, representative, or liquidator of a bank or a person in accordance with Article 1b, as member of a body or employee of an audit firm or that they have observed in this capacity;
  2. attempts to induce an infraction of the professional secrecy;
  3. discloses confidential information to third parties or uses this information for own benefits or the benefit of others.

Whoever enriches themselves or others with an action in accordance with (1)(a) or (c) shall be punished with imprisonment for up to five years or fined accordingly.

Whoever acts in negligence shall be penalised with a fine of up to CHF 250,000.

The violation of the professional confidentiality shall remain punishable even after a bank license has been revoked or a person has ceased his/her official responsibilities.

The federal and cantonal provisions on the duty to provide evidence or on the duty to provide information to an authority shall be exempted from this provision.

Prosecution and judgment of offenses pursuant to these provisions shall be incumbent upon the cantons. The general provisions of the Swiss Penal Code shall be applicable.

Art. 43 of the Stock Exchange Act provides as follows: “Whoever intentionally does the following shall be imprisoned up to three years or fined accordingly:

  1. discloses a secret which has been confided to him in his capacity as a member of a governing body, employee, mandatary or liquidator of a stock exchange or a securities dealer, as a member of one of the governing bodies or employee of recognised auditors, or of which he has become aware in any such capacity;
  2. attempts such breach of professional secrecy by inducement;
  3. discloses confidential information to third parties or uses this information for own benefits or the benefit of others.

Whoever enriches themselves or others with an action in accordance with (1)(a) or (c) shall be punished with imprisonment for up to five years or fined accordingly.

Whoever acts in negligence shall be penalised with a fine of up to CHF 250,000.

The violation of the professional confidentiality shall remain punishable even after a bank license has been revoked or a person has ceased his/her official responsibilities.

The federal and cantonal provisions on the duty to provide evidence or on the duty to provide information to an authority shall be exempted from this provision.

Prosecution and judgment of offenses pursuant to these provisions shall be incumbent upon the cantons. The general provisions of the Swiss Penal Code shall be applicable.

Although the aforementioned regulatory provisions are still in force, the concept of “bank secrecy”, understood as total anonymity of accounts opened with Swiss banks, is no longer current; in fact, in recent years, Switzerland has complied with international standards in terms of information exchange.

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