Amy Webster, a communications specialist who lives in Morges, Switzerland shared her FATCA fallout story recently on the Genevalunch blog. The link to her story was in one of the comments posted here on Isaac Brock. I have been in contact with her via email, and obtained her kind permission to also cross post it here for additional visibility. She said, “By all means, my story has gone public, so please feel free to do what you wish with it, as long as it can help our cause!” Her story follows:
By Amy Webster
I have been living in Switzerland since 1984 and am married to a Swiss national. We own a house together in Morges and are currently building a chalet in the Valais. For this new construction we obtained a loan from the Zurich-based zweiplus bank, where my husband had invested some funds. The construction is underway and we recently asked the bank for additional funds. Although we are good clients and the loan itself would not raise a problem, the harsh news came that under no circumstance could we obtain a greater loan; in fact the entire mortgage is questioned, for the sole reason that I am a dual Swiss-US national.
We also learned that this bank considers my husband a dual national as well, which is understandably infuriating. Although they have known since the beginning that I am a US national, some recent political decision (internal or external to the bank) is making them revisit every banking relationship they have with US citizens — with immediate effect. I now understand this is a result of banks preparing for the FATCA law.
We have been asked to remove all our assets from the bank (and forced to sell all our stock at great financial loss given the current economy, because we cannot obtain additional funds) and to find another bank to refinance our mortgage, under the grounds that zweiplus is no longer allowed to deal with US citizens (or better said, no longer wishes to); they will in fact cease any business relations with any US citizen or anyone with close family ties to one (so my own children might run into similar problems in the future).
They referred us to banks who still deal with US citizens (there appears to be a short list), among them the leading Swiss bank UBS where my husband is, luckily, also an established client.
My husband was in touch with UBS today to negotiate refinancing our mortgage and possibly reinvesting our assets. He was told he has been considered a US citizen for many years and is handled by their special department in charge of such customers (increasingly considered persona non grata). They are willing to refinance our mortgage (at a great financial cost for us, as the breach of the mortgage contract has financial repercussions for both parties involved) and accept our investments (they make it sound like they are doing us a favor) but have told my husband that US citizens may no longer be allowed to even own property in Switzerland! I could not believe my ears when I heard this.
We already own a house in Morges and I have in fact been a house owner in Switzerland since 1992! My current mortgage for our Morges house is with the BCV (Banque Cantonale Vaudoise) and they have not informed me of any such change. To this the UBS man replied: “Don’t worry, this will be coming soon” — meaning that all banks will soon be coming down on all their US customers (and relatives, I may add).
The backdrop of all these interactions with Swiss bankers has always been: “We are very sorry, this is not our own doing, but a direct result of the US FATCA regulations imposed on Swiss banks. We are very sorry to lose you as customers but have no choice but to follow the rules”.
I would like to add that the reason UBS is actually willing to help us – to a certain extent at least – is probably due to the fact that they handle my husband’s business and his family’s estate. I cannot imagine how they would treat me if it were not for my husband, and I hate to observe the stress and anxiety this is creating for him.
The UBS banker even told him that it was thanks to his sister being co–owner of the building their father recently donated to them, that they are maintaining the mortgage on that estate. Had he been sole owner they would breach the contract because he is considered a dual national (which he is not!) because of his marriage to me. He was even told the only solution would be to divorce!
Needless to say this is not only infuriating but downright humiliating. My husband is putting pressure on me as the source of our problems, and I am therefore experiencing first hand how these unfair regulations imposed on Swiss banks by the US government are having adverse effects on the lives and wellbeing of US citizens living in this country, to the point of putting pressure on dual marriages.
I am seriously considering giving up my US citizenship which I had always been so proud of and which I so carefully looked after. I have duly filed a US income tax return every year, as my father rightly taught me, and to this day had never felt shame at being a US citizen. I am not so sure anymore and fear what is ahead for us honest citizens who are now being treated as second-class ones.
I understand the political motivation of the current administration to chase tax evaders and punish banks that contributed to such transactions, but I cry out in outrage at the fact that regulations intended to resolve such situations have in fact impacted simple and honest, hard working citizens like my husband and myself, and in a very negative fashion. I wish to use every means in my power to protest against such rules.
Here is my response just posted to the Tribune de Genève article that you posted the link to above:
L’exclusion bancaire de certains clients Suisses sur la base
de leur origine s’agit d’un acte criminel en contravention de l’Art 261bis CPS. A voir aussi RS 291 Art 23.
Ce qui est en train de se passer se ressemble beaucoup au traitement
des juifs en Allemagne pendent les années 30.
Le fait que le gouvernement USA met le bâton dans la rue des
gens qui veulent renoncer à la nationalité américaine viol la Convention
Internationale des Droits de l’Homme (UDHR) : le droit
de changer son nationalité est garanti.
The policy of TdG does not allow for Nom de Plume, but I hope they overlook and approve the post.
” Had he been sole owner they would breach the contract because he is considered a dual national (which he is not!) because of his marriage to me. He was even told the only solution would be to divorce!”
This again reminds me of policies in Nazi Germany: if you married a Jew, you were in trouble.
It seems that some Swiss People’s Party members in Zürich want to make a distinction between naturalized and native-born Swiss in various registers and statistics. The argument is that naturalized Swiss are more often criminals and welfare-dependants, and that this is not evident in the way current statistics are presented. I am appalled at this proposition. Another Nuremberg-style proposition.
Of course, there will be an increasing number of welfare-dependant naturalized Swiss, especially those this a US connection, who can’t open bank accounts and are increasingly being denied jobs.
I bet that most of these Swiss Peoples Party MPs would just try to outright ban US immigration if it starts to become obvious that “US persons” are unable to work and just drain the economy due to FATCA.
Edit: Do you think that this guy (Beat Riemer) is serious or just posting tongue in cheek? Very creepy if he actually means it:
“Schweizer sein Geburt” geht mir nicht weit genug. Erst wer Eidgenosse seit mindestens 7 Generationen ist sollte als Vollschweizer anerkannt werden.Alles danach sind doch Nachkommen von Wirtschaftsflüchtlingen.Zudem müsste er innerhalb seiner gesamten Familie eine Reinrassigkeit vorweisen können, d.h. keiner des Familienbaums dürfte jemals einen Ausländer/in geheiratet haben.”
Unfortunately, I think we don’t have to look very far to find overreaching governments in this age of rising State authoritarianism in the West. Although we often focus on the US, this phenomenon is by no means confined to that country alone. I believe it will be a matter of time before Switzerland returns to its tradition of making things hard for foreigners (recall the Schwarzenbach Initiative). The European economy is tanking and this might be the catalyst for more trouble to come.
Its always a fine line with the SVP. They stand up for a lot of important things:
– Strongly Support Bank/Financial Secrecy
– Kept Switzerland out of the EU
– Resisted entry into the UN
– Wants to keep the Swiss Army in Swiss hands and more militia like
– Wants to keep assault rifles at home
– Resists the Warmists
– Fights for low taxes
– Fights for small government
– Resists the Welfare State
Immigration is another one of their hot-button issues, and just as in all the other western welfare states it is the socialists who have opened the flood gates to economic asylum seekers and provided them with the magnet of free benefits. It is these same socialists who have bankrupted the state and provided us with bloated and overpaid civil service with unsustainable pension and retirement plans.
So this SVP member Barbara Steineman should not try to punish the immigrants (the symptom), but the socialists (the cause). To put it simply, SP and other past pro-government party members should be forced to pay taxes at the top marginal rate on all their income until such time as the national debt has been paid back and all budgets are balanced.
That’s the two-edged sword the SVP always wields. On the one hand, they are for small government, etc. On the other, they pursue the populist track of blaming immigrants for Switzerland’s problems. The latter track is why most of the Swiss I meet hate them — I live in a big city so don’t know what people in the countryside think.
I know they pursue populism and this kind of simplified presentation of problems to get votes from certain segments of society, but if they made their act a bit more sophisticated it could work wonders for their overall results.
I don’t really see what Switzerland could do to address immigration even if it wanted to. From what I read about the SVP they seem to be really anti-immigrants from outside of the EU. I imagine that they could succeed in making it almost impossible for non Europeans to move to Switzerland. I don’t think that they could really do anything about blocking EU immigration since that would also entail forcing the thousands of Swiss resident in the EU to return involuntarily. Same problem with getting rid of the freedom of movement in the UK – Sure, that would send lots of Eastern Europeans back home, but what about the million plus Brits in Spain? I don’t think that you can reverse these types of laws without causing a humanitarian crisis on some level.
@Wellington, I live in the countryside of the SVP stronghold. As ConfederateH pointed out, the SVP does stand up for a lot of important things but they tend to cross the limits on immigration. The BDP is thus a bit more reasonable and realistic.
@Don Pomodoro, the SVP is simply against immigrants no matter where they were from. Before, it used to be the Italians, then the Yugos and now the Germans. The more there are, the bigger the problem. Yet, if it is just a small number, then it’s not much of an issue no matter where they are from, as long as they are not involved in crime. For example, Asian women tend to do well in the SVP stronghold, and some may even be more critical of immigration then their political comrades.
Don Pomodoro, darn, I guess that such excludes me. My 50+ Swiss generations have some European blood mixed in. Shame on me. I knew that we should have kept the women away from Ceasar’s troops on the way to Saintongeais.
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Just found this article on a Real Overseas, a Swiss bank willing to serve US citizen who agree to be compliant with US tax regulations.