Politics & Government

Justice Dept. says it will demand UBS customer information

The Justice Department said it will insist on "information on a significant number" of UBS customers in any settlement between the U.S. and Swiss governments over a high-stakes, bank-secrecy dispute.

On Sunday, the United States government and Swiss banking giant UBS jointly asked to postpone a hearing slated to begin Monday in Miami to allow the U.S. and Swiss governments more time to resolve a dispute over whether the bank should be required to turn over the names of 52,000 clients with secret offshore bank accounts.

Attorneys still plan to appear in federal court Monday before Judge Alan S. Gold, who is handling the case about whether to enforce a civil summons from the Internal Revenue Service seeking the UBS customer information. The judge didn't immediately issue an order on postponing the hearing, although judges typically approve such joint requests.

The IRS has justified its demand for the information based in part on UBS's admission that it helped American clients set up accounts offshore to dodge income taxes.

In the high-profile confrontation, the United States is seeking to crush long-held tenets of Swiss banking secrecy, which lie at the heart of Switzerland's large and profitable financial-services industry.

The sensitive nature of the IRS action against Switzerland's largest bank has prompted input from the State Department, the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve, in addition to the Justice Department, which provides attorneys to argue the case for the IRS.

The government of Switzerland maintains that UBS would break Swiss law if it complied with the wide-ranging IRS summons. Switzerland said last week it would seize the bank's records before permitting the company to turn them over to the United States.

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