UBS AG, has agreed to pay $780 million in order to avoid prosecution for conspiring to commit tax fraud in violation of 18 USC 371. UBS entered into a deferred prosecution agreement. The exhibits are here and here. As part of the deferred prosecution agreement, UBS admitted that it participated in a tax fraud scheme, and that UBS bankers facilitated U.S. taxpayers in establishing accounts at UBS in a way intended to conceal the U.S. taxpayers’ ownership in the accounts. It appears that the amount of the settlement might have been higher, but for the current financial crisis, and the input of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
Most importantly, for U.S. clients concerned about their own exposure for tax evasion, or tax fraud, UBS agreed to provide the identities and account information of some of its United States clients. The exact scope of the disclosure is set forth in a letter between UBS and the Department of Justice, but that letter is under court seal. Ominously, the information filed against UBS referred to some of the 20,000 U.S. account holders as “unindicted co-conspirators.”
It seems clear that not all of the names of U.S. account holders are being turned over. The agreement does not end the summons enforcement action pending against UBS requiring it to disclose offshore bank accounts of U.S. clients. Indeed, the agreement provides that UBS is not prohibited from continuing to assert its defenses in the summons enforcement proceeding. There has been some speculation that UBS is only turning over the names of about 250 clients that are known to have committed “tax fraud or the like” under Swiss law.
The deferred prosecution agreement provides for UBS’ continuing cooperation with the government in any criminal tax investigation, tax fraud or tax evasion case, or any other civil or criminal proceeding brought by government in connection with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) investigation into offshore accounts.
The good news is that IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman has been quoted as saying that: “People who have hidden unreported income offshore need to get right with their government. They should come forward and take advantage of our voluntary disclosure process.” This suggests that despite the fact that the wolf is at the door the IRS may still consider a filing at this stage to be a voluntary disclosure that could stave off criminal tax charges.