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U.S. and Swiss governments ask for delay in UBS banking secrecy hearings

They indicate they are seeking a settlement in the high-stakes case, which involves an IRS effort to identify thousands of suspected U.S. tax evaders.

July 13, 2009|Associated Press

The U.S. and Swiss governments and banking giant UBS indicated Sunday that they were seeking a settlement and asked a federal judge to delay high-stakes hearings on the Internal Revenue Service's effort to identify thousands of suspected U.S. tax evaders.

The motion, filed in Miami less than 24 hours before the hearings were to begin today, sought postponement until Aug. 3 "to allow the two governments to continue their discussions seeking a resolution of this matter."

In a statement, the Justice Department said any agreement would have to require that UBS provide "information on a significant number of individuals with UBS accounts."

The case seeking the identities of some 52,000 wealthy American clients suspected of hiding $15 billion at the Swiss banking giant already has sent shock waves through the international banking system.

Bankers fear that a ruling against UBS would disrupt cross-border commerce, force people to withdraw huge sums of money from financial entities with offshore offices and play havoc with international tax treaties.

"The precedent this case may set is of immediate relevance to all financial institutions with global operations," the Institute of International Bankers and other financial groups said in a court filing.

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