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Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

What Everyone Ought to Know About Swiss Bank Accounts



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From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt . . .

What You Ought to Know About Swiss Bank Accounts

With Mitt Romney’s old Swiss bank account the latest to be cast in the role of Emmanuel Goldstein by the Obama campaign and its allies — displacing ATMs, stay-at-home moms, and cynicism itself in the constantly shifting locus of evil in the modern world — I began to wonder how many people have Swiss bank accounts.

The only time most Americans encounter the term is at the movies, when the villainous mercenary inevitably says to his sinister employers, “yes, yes, I will make sure the bomb explodes/our target is assassinated/Mister Bond ends up in a water tank with sharks with lasers on their head& — but only after the money is wired into my Swiss bank account!” This line aims to show that in addition to being a dangerous, cold-blooded mass murderer, this villain is greedy, and not even a true believer in the evil cause. He isn’t even willing to offer a line of credit to the sinister employers. His focus on his payment for the dangerous work he’s about to do is persistently demonized by those charitable, selfless, low-paid Hollywood types; his villainy is demonstrated by his focus on money, unlike the noble, heroic Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark, who had the decency to inherit a billion dollars or so from their parents.

Judging from pop culture, the clientele hanging around the lobby of a Swiss bank looks like Batman’s rogues gallery. “Ah, Mr. Stromberg, can I interest you in some of our long-term CDs?”

In fact, I’m going to quote TV Tropes directly:

No self-respecting big-money criminal would stash his loot in anything but a legendarily secretive Swiss bank account. In the hands of particularly lazy thriller writers, merely possessing a Swiss bank account is proof positive that a person is up to no good.

In real life, the usefulness of these numbered accounts is limited, due to how hard it is to get one nowadays . . . The Swiss, well aware of their banks’ increasing reputation as havens for no-good-niks (not particularly helped by their willingness to stash Nazi Gold, though they were originally formed to help people hide money from the Gestapo), require numerous references and a general OK from the person’s country of origin.

Yeah, but it’s not like Obama hangs around particularly lazy thriller writers, the kind of people who would write up hackneyed, axe-grinding drivel like this . . .

The intrigue begins when the Republican White House nominates Carl Satcher, an old foe that protagonist Sen. Elizabeth Fischer Lind defeated for his Senate seat, to be secretary of homeland security. During confirmation hearings, Elizabeth tries to debate his extreme views on antiterrorism and draconian stance on civil liberties. Meanwhile, a story about the Linds’ private finances is leaked, offering much fodder for Republicans and the media. As the fight escalates, Elizabeth’s staff swings into crisis mode while FBI director Douglas Brewer suspects more ominous doings are afoot.

Wait, that’s from Sen. Barbara Boxer’s second thriller novel. Yes, she wrote two.

Anyway, I was wondering how many Americans have Swiss bank accounts, and Matt Welch of Reason is here to help:

Do you know who else once had a Swiss bank account? I mean, besides Hitler? Various U.S. military veterans, dual-national citizens who haven’t lived or worked in America for decades, and panicked retirees who are trying to cope with new tax rules imposed capriciously by a revenue-hungry Congress and president in 2010. Thousands of such Americans are getting bounced out of their existing Swiss accounts and denied new ones, even if they live and work in Geneva for one of the city’s many international non-governmental organizations.

You can read dozens of their testimonies in this April 2012 letter [PDF] to the Internal Revenue Service from American Citizens Abroad, including this story from an American retiree who has lived in Geneva (where he worked at the U.S. secretariat for the United Nations’ International Labor Office) for all but four years since 1973 . . .

The utterly fantastic article offers all kinds of actual facts — you know, the sort of thing journalists used to do, before they outsourced all of that stuff to the opposition research staff of the DNC — and is joyous in the way that it ritually disembowels the phony populism of the likes of Sen. Dick Durbin.

Remember at the top of this article when Dick Durbin criticized people who “believe the Swiss franc is stronger than the American dollar”? Well, it is. Ten years ago a greenback reliably got you more than 1.40 Swiss francs, but the dollar was down to 0.86 when the Swiss National Bank announced a currency peg to the Euro last September. Though that helped break the fall, the buck still hasn’t clawed its way back above the 1.00-franc mark since, and I would be comfortable wagering that another decade from now it will be closer to 0.50.

Is Dick Durbin protecting his million-dollar portfolio through a buy-American-only strategy? Hell no, he isn’t — why, just right there I can see such asset items as “ING Clarion Global Real Estate Income,” and “Matthews Asia Dividend Investor,” and “Morgan Stanley Emerging Markets Domestic.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that! Switzerland is an unusually stable country with an unusually sound fiscal track record and an unusually strong banking sector. I would be shocked if any $100 million American didn’t have at least some stake in a country that has long been one of the largest foreign investors in the United States.

Elsewhere, Daniel Halper points out that at the DNC, real Americans invest in the state bank of India.

“Americans need to ask themselves, why does an American businessman need a Swiss bank account and secretive investments like that?” the DNC chair, a chief surrogate for President Obama’s reelection team, said on Fox News Sunday two days ago. “Just something, a thought, that I’d like to leave folks with.”

It’s been a consistent theme of Obama’s reelection strategy: Attack Romney for foreign investments he held, especially in Swiss bank accounts, “to try to promote his wealthy, out-of-touch businessman persona.”

But disclosure forms reveal that in 2010, Wasserman Schultz invested between $1,001-$15,000 in a 401k retirement fund run by Davis Financial Fund. As the fund discloses, it is invested in the Julius Baer Group Ltd. and the State Bank of India GDR Ltd., as well as other financial, insurance, bank institutions.

Why does a DNC Chair need to invest in the state bank of India like that?

I’ll let Jedediah Bila sum up: “It’s hilarious to watch the ‘Fast and Furious’ Administration shout for transparency over Romney’s bank accounts.”


Tags: Barack Obama , Barbara Boxer , Debbie Wasserman Schultz , Mitt Romney


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