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  #41  
Old 06.05.2012, 11:39
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Re: My Swiss bank took my money!

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<snip>In fact, we lost over 10% of our account because of the sudden withdrawal. </snip>
So the amount in the account was around $30,000.

Sadly you are a victim of your own government's purge on US tax evasion. Swiss banks are under great pressure from the US authorities and this is the result.

I would say that as now you have repatriated the remains of your funds that you invest this nearer home and chalk the whole business up to experience. I doubt you will have success in trying to reclaim the now reduced amount which you agreed to...
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  #42  
Old 06.05.2012, 13:08
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Re: My Swiss bank took my money!

The OP is not going to get useful advice on a public forum, nor should they expect to since without more information (information that would violate their privacy) nothing really useful can be offered.

Swiss banks have long had representative offices and sometimes subsidiaries and branches in the United States. I remember Swiss Bank Corporation's activities in New York through the 1960s. There is nothing wrong with arranging in the United States the opening of a Swiss account, although the conspiracy by some bankers and their traveling representatives to open such accounts aimed at violating US tax and foreign-currency transfer-notification laws was certainly criminal. The legal operations of Swiss banks mainly concerned commercial operations. A firm I worked for, for example, in the 1960s opened an account with a Canadian bank through that bank's New York office a year or so before that firm actually began Canadian operations. I recall that after our initial meeting and before the account was opened we received a number of sales calls. That's what bankers' reps do for a living.

If the Swiss bank acted unfairly in this instance I think that the OP's best chance is to contact the Swiss banking ombudsman. That office can correspond in English as well as in Swiss languages: http://www.bankingombudsman.ch/en

The kind of speculation going on in this thread is really unhelpful to the OP. Bringing a small claims action (something I suggested as a long-shot possibility) against a US office of the bank, if there is one, would mean that the OP would have to be near New York City. And would have to be pre parted to prove the legal, regulatory and contractual framework of the account. Brining the action in Switzerland would not be worth the amount in question, although it might be fun. There would be a linguistic challenge however.

An Ombudsman, on the other hand, is concerned not just with law but with fairness.
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  #43  
Old 06.05.2012, 13:44
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Re: My Swiss bank took my money!

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An Ombudsman, on the other hand, is concerned not just with law but with fairness.

An Ombudsman still has to work within the framwork of the law, fair or not.
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  #44  
Old 06.05.2012, 14:31
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Re: My Swiss bank took my money!

I can tell the same story from an USA bank!

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Here is my story, I hope those of you who take the time to read it can give me any relevant information to help me out. I would greatly appreciate your input.

I live in the US, and my parents and I opened an account with a Swiss bank (which shall remain anonymous) during 2008. Its an account that doesn't pay any interest, everything was declared and done legally. The bank wouldn't really charge any fees, and if they did they were very minimal, maybe $100 or $200 per year maximum. All of a sudden in late 2011 our statement showed a withdrawal for a sum of nearly $3,000. None of us ever withdrew money from the account. After the sum of nearly $3,000 was removed, we were starting to be charged around $450 per quarter. Needless to say we closed the account just a couple of weeks ago.

In January of this year, the bank's liaison in the US (who had opened the account for us) called my mother and explained to her that there are new banking policies and if we wanted we could close our account and not be charged. This was after we had already been charged thousands of dollars. My mother happened to be on vacation while receiving this call, and she was very busy afterwards and simply did not have the time or energy to deal with it.

Now, I had no idea any of this was happening, as my mother was managing the account and she has a million different things on her plate. She told me about this situation last week after we had already closed our Swiss account and transferred the money back to our US account (with part of our money missing of course).

I emailed the bank rep and asked about the large discrepancy on our statement and they said they would prefer to talk to me on the phone. I called them a few days ago and the conversation was interesting for a few reasons.

They explained these sums were deducted because of the new banking regulations the US government was putting on Swiss banks in regards to their American accounts, forcing Swiss banks to regularly audit their US accounts. She said the bank absorbed the cost of these accounts for a while, but there came a point where they had to pass the cost onto their clients. Ok, thats believable. But whats interesting is we never received ANY letter, whether through standard mail or email, that there were new policies and that these new policies would cost us money. All we had was that informal phone call in January after we had already been charged thousands of dollars. Not a single warning prior to the excessive charges.

When I asked the bank rep why they never sent us any notice of policy changes, and why we never had the option of closing our account PRIOR to the $3,000 charge, she gave me an answer that made no sense to me: She claimed the new regulations prevented the bank from initiating contact with US clients! She actually admitted they never notified us, but said they were prohibited from doing so! What a load of BS!

I responded by telling her that the bank sends us statements, and that those statements are a form of communication. So why didn't they include a letter indicating their new policies, especially when it was going to cost me thousands of dollars? She used the same excuse of "we were not allowed to do that".

Now get a load of this. I pressed the issue with her further, asking her questions that made her claims seem ridiculous, and I think she started getting the point. About 45 minutes into the conversation we ended with her saying "Let me talk to some people and see if I can at least get you a partial reimbursement". Literally 5 minutes after I hung up, my mother (who was listening to the entire conversation in silence) gets a call on her cellphone. It was the bank's liaison in the US, the one who gave my mother the half-ass call in January after we had already been charged. He told my mother he would be able to give us $2,000 back, and the issue was partly my mother's fault because he had "warned" her in January. My mother simply said ok ok, thank you so much, and hung up.

My mother was relieved to get $2,000 back, the poor woman has to deal with bankers and insurance agents on a daily basis and she simply doesn't have the energy for a fight. I, on the other hand, have plenty of energy and am FURIOUS because I feel that we are entitled to the entire $3,000 withdrawal, and I think I even have a strong case to collect the other $1,000 of subsequent charges since the bank is obligated to send me written notice of new terms on my account, which they failed to do. They violated their fiduciary responsibility towards my account, and they realized their mistake and quickly tried to bribe us with $2,000, which is only half of the money they took. I'm not satisfied that someone took "only" $2,000 from me instead of $4,000. I'm even more pissed that they tried to bribe me into silence. My mentality is this: If, 5 months after the fact, it only took them 5 minutes to reimburse $2,000, let them spend another 5 minutes and reimburse the remaining $2,000.

I called an attorney earlier today, and this is someone who knows my mother and is looking out for our best interests. They told me I have a very strong case. However, for the relatively small amount of money involved as well as the international character of the lawsuit, it would not make economic sense for me. The attorney said if he was in my shoes, he would contact the bank and play a little hardball with them, let them know I've spoken to an attorney, and see if I can get the full amount. This is exactly what I had in mind, so his advice confirmed my strategy, and this will be my next step.

If there is anything I am misunderstanding about the situation, or if you have any advice, it would be greatly appreciated. What would you do if you were in my shoes?
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  #45  
Old 06.05.2012, 20:45
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Re: My Swiss bank took my money!

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Sadly you are a victim of your own government's purge on US tax evasion. Swiss banks are under great pressure from the US authorities and this is the result.
I'm aware of the pressure the US government puts on foreign banks with US accounts, and I can understand if the bank has additional costs associated with these accounts. What I'm not aware of is a law which prohibits a bank from contacting its client in another country about updated fee schedule for maintaining the client's account. This is the crux of the issue, which I believe is in my favor.



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I would say that as now you have repatriated the remains of your funds that you invest this nearer home and chalk the whole business up to experience. I doubt you will have success in trying to reclaim the now reduced amount which you agreed to...
Actually, there is no proof we agreed to anything. My telephone conversation with the bank was recorded (as is required by the bank's Terms & Conditions), however my mother's separate phone conversation with the referral guy in which she "agreed" was not recorded. It was simply a personal call, and IF it was recorded then that's illegal because he is required by US law to state that the conversation is being recorded, which he did not do. So there is no proof they offered us anything, and there is no proof we agreed.



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If the Swiss bank acted unfairly in this instance I think that the OP's best chance is to contact the Swiss banking ombudsman. That office can correspond in English as well as in Swiss languages: http://www.bankingombudsman.ch/en
I didn't even know such a thing existed. This is a great help, thank you very much. I will tell the bank rep that I will come into contact with the Swiss banking ombudsman should they fail to provide a settlement in writing (as is recommended on the ombudsman's website).



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I can tell the same story from an USA bank!
Oh believe me, we have plenty of stories of this type of conduct from US banks. In fact my experience with US banks and my impatience with this type of dishonest behavior is what gives me the fuel to pursue my issue with the Swiss bank in question. This is precisely why I don't care how much money is in question, its a matter of principle. Although like I said, the funds I lost are relatively significant to me.
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  #46  
Old 10.05.2012, 23:20
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Re: My Swiss bank took my money!

Update on my situation, with a few twists, turns, and a good outcome:

After my last post, I went ahead and wrote a brief but damning letter to the bank rep. In it, I explained that I was not satisfied since I was not reimbursed the full amount I was charged. I never mentioned the referral guy's offer. I said the bank rep's excuse that they were not allowed to contact me was false simply because: The bank's Terms & Conditions do not prohibit any contact with clients, and that the bank contacted me with updated fee schedules on financial instruments in December 2011, which proves the bank was allowed to contact me with information outside of quarterly statements.

I ended the letter by saying that because of the bank's mistakes and the false information given by the bank rep, I want a full reimbursement including the original withdrawal amount of $3,000, and subsequent charges of $1,000, for a total of $4,000. I said if they do not comply with my demand within 3 days I will be forced to consult the Swiss Banking Ombudsman and have them mediate the issue. If that doesn't work I am prepared to contact the US Treasury and inform them of the bank's conduct. I sent the letter Sunday right before midnight in my time, so that Monday morning Swiss time they would read it as soon as they get into the office. Start their week off with a bang!

Monday morning I awoke to the sound of a phone call which my mother picked up. It was the referral guy, and he sounded extremely nervous on the verge of panicing. He was telling my mother that he thought we had agreed on a settlement and now, because of my "extremely threatening" letter, the referral guy looks like a jackass in front of the bank. This was significant because afterwards I found out the referral guy knew my parents for many years. He knows many of the same people my parents know, their social circles overlap. In short, my mother was afraid things would get sour with him & other people they knew mutually. She begged and pleaded with me to back away from the situation, even saying she would burn the money as soon as it came in. I offered stiff resistance. I told her she didn't need to have friends like this guy. I told her that since this guy is personal friends with the bank owner & the bank rep, he is protecting their interests instead of ours, letting some millionaire nickel-and-dime us when we actually need those nickels and dimes. His involvement in the situation was not requested and is in fact criminal, I told her. By the end of Monday I had accepted defeat, not at the hands of the bank, but at the hands of my mother! What luck!

Tuesday rolled around and I told my mother in the morning I would write a personal email to this referral guy. So throughout the day Tuesday I composed a long letter. I showed it to my sister & brother in law (they have lots of experience in banking & business). We edited it & agreed on the final letter. In a nutshell the letter said to the referral guy: I didn't know I was supposed to contact you about our bank account. To my knowledge you don't work for the bank. Sorry for the inconvenience & making you look bad in front of the bank. Out of respect for your relationship with my parents, I will contact the bank rep and tell her there was a miscommunication and that the miscommunication is not your fault, but the bank's fault for getting you involved without our consent. Now that the bank knows who to contact, I want to have a reason why my full reimbursement was denied. I even sent him a draft of the letter I was going to send the bank rep, and that he should advise me on the letter before I sent it. Basically I was respectful towards him, confused at the bank's actions, and all I wanted was the bank to give me a reason why I was not offered the full reimbursement (keep in my the bank never contacted me after I spoke to the bank rep over the phone last week!).

So I sent the referral guy the email on Tuesday night. Wednesday morning rolls around and the home phone rings. Its the referral guy, so I pick up. With a very disappointed & frustrated tone he says he "convinced" the bank rep to reimburse the full amount, because he doesn't want to sour a friendship for such a small amount of money (the tone of his voice was not a friendly one). He said that I was doing really distasteful things, that people who do business don't threaten each other. I told him, maybe the amount of money is small for you & for the bank, but I have to work hundreds of hours to make that money. I said I appreciate your effort, although I don't know why you were involved in the first place. If the bank told me they would involve you, I would have refused. Its not your mistake in the first place, and its not your job to clean up the bank's mistakes. He says its not about mistakes, we simply had 30 days to challenge the bank statement and after 30 days its a valid statement. I said thats true, however, the bank is obligated by law to send us written notice of fees PRIOR to the charges, and just because we didn't challenge within 30 days doesn't mean the bank is absolved of its legal responsibilites. He then got borderline disrespectful with me. He tells me, maybe you don't understand, maybe you don't have experience in these matters, you really need to do your research before you send threatening letters. I said I did plenty of research and consulted many different people about the issue. He said, "I don't think so", and kept insisting we had 30 days to challenge. I told him that the bank rep never gave me this 30 day excuse, she simply said the bank is not allowed to contact clients in the US, which we both know is a false statement. I said, so you and the bank rep need to get on the same page with your information, because you're telling me one thing, and she's telling me another thing, plus she had no right to involve you in this matter without my consent. In the end, he said "lets agree to disagree", and said that I should not send my letter to the bank rep because he was not an employee and should his name get mentioned on the record, that "It will create a big problem for you, for me, and for the bank".

This shows me that he knows his involvement is illegal, and if I mentioned his name to anybody both him and the bank would be in deep, deep sh*t. My mother even told me that anytime she would email him with a question, he would tell her to call him (so that theres no record of their conversations). He has even encouraged my mom in the past to get rid of any copies of bank records and whatnot, which she couldn't do because she needs them for her personal records. However, this tells me that this guy was doing something very, very illegal, and the only reason he would take that risk is if there was some benefit to him. I'm guessing he gets kickbacks from the bank, but that is just speculation based on what I know. However, its a pretty informed speculation.


According to the referral guy, I'm supposed to get the remainder of my money. I'm checking my US bank account every few hours to see if theres an incoming wire transfer. I think they will send it because this guy knows I've done my homework, and that I know about the illegal activities of the bank as well as his.

So the moral of the story: Do your homework before you get into any agreements. Keep tangible records of everything. If you know the bank is doing something wrong, contact them with your explanations. If they do not yield to your demands, tell them you will be forced to contact the Ombudsman. Most of all, don't take someone's word at face value just because they claim to be your friend.
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  #47  
Old 11.05.2012, 11:59
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Re: My Swiss bank took my money!

Good work! Hope you get the money back.

From what you've said, you've only had contact with the referral guy and the bank rep.

This could be a scam just between the referral guy and the bank rep and the bank itself doesn't know about it. The referral guy opens accounts for "friends", and at some stage money starts disappearing. If the friends notice, he spins a story about new regulations causing money to be deducted, backed up by the bank rep, who could also be taking a cut of the money.
That's assuming that the bank is genuine, the bank rep actually works there and the statements are real. Alternatively, the bank rep could just be the referral guy's mate, and the statements could be fakes made to look as if they're from a real bank. Or the bank itself could be a fake. Unless you have proof that the bank rep works for a genuine bank and that the statements are real.

Your mother is unlikely to be the only person targeted. Makes sense that they want you to keep quiet.
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...the bank's liaison in the US (who had opened the account for us) called my mother and explained to her that there are new banking policies and if we wanted we could close our account and not be charged. This was after we had already been charged thousands of dollars....I emailed the bank rep and asked about the large discrepancy on our statement and they said they would prefer to talk to me on the phone. ...They explained these sums were deducted because of the new banking regulations the US government was putting on Swiss banks in regards to their American accounts.... But whats interesting is we never received ANY letter, whether through standard mail or email, that there were new policies and that these new policies would cost us money. All we had was that informal phone call ...When I asked the bank rep why they never sent us any notice of policy changes, and why we never had the option of closing our account PRIOR to the $3,000 charge, she gave me an answer that made no sense to me...
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...He was telling my mother that he thought we had agreed on a settlement and now, because of my "extremely threatening" letter, the referral guy looks like a jackass in front of the bank. This was significant because afterwards I found out the referral guy knew my parents for many years. He knows many of the same people my parents know, their social circles overlap....With a very disappointed & frustrated tone he says he "convinced" the bank rep to reimburse the full amount, because he doesn't want to sour a friendship for such a small amount of money (the tone of his voice was not a friendly one). He said that I was doing really distasteful things, that people who do business don't threaten each other. ... said that I should not send my letter to the bank rep because he was not an employee and should his name get mentioned on the record, that "It will create a big problem for you, for me, and for the bank".

This shows me that he knows his involvement is illegal, and if I mentioned his name to anybody both him and the bank would be in deep, deep sh*t. My mother even told me that anytime she would email him with a question, he would tell her to call him (so that theres no record of their conversations). He has even encouraged my mom in the past to get rid of any copies of bank records and whatnot, which she couldn't do because she needs them for her personal records. However, this tells me that this guy was doing something very, very illegal, and the only reason he would take that risk is if there was some benefit to him. I'm guessing he gets kickbacks from the bank, but that is just speculation based on what I know. ...Most of all, don't take someone's word at face value just because they claim to be your friend.
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  #48  
Old 11.05.2012, 12:20
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Re: My Swiss bank took my money!

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Actually you were doing them a favour as the Protocol is translated & then written in German!
I had to go the Schlichtungsbehoerde (other party agreed to stop their Betreibung and go there as there are no fees attached) in Zurich. My German is reasonably good (has to be for my job), but my SG is still abysmal to non-existant. The Mietverband told me that I could request a translator (SG => English), so I did.

I know that SG is the spoken language here. However I was still surprised that SG rather than HG was used for proceedings. And of course the judegement / Kontrolle was written in HG!
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  #49  
Old 11.05.2012, 13:57
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Re: My Swiss bank took my money!

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Alternatively, the bank rep could just be the referral guy's mate, and the statements could be fakes made to look as if they're from a real bank.
Correction: since the bank rep is a woman, it could be the referral guy's wife/girlfriend. If they already have police records, that would be another reason why they wouldn't want you contacting the authorities.
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Old 12.05.2012, 06:58
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Re: My Swiss bank took my money!

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Good work! Hope you get the money back.

From what you've said, you've only had contact with the referral guy and the bank rep.

This could be a scam just between the referral guy and the bank rep and the bank itself doesn't know about it. The referral guy opens accounts for "friends", and at some stage money starts disappearing. If the friends notice, he spins a story about new regulations causing money to be deducted, backed up by the bank rep, who could also be taking a cut of the money.
That's assuming that the bank is genuine, the bank rep actually works there and the statements are real. Alternatively, the bank rep could just be the referral guy's mate, and the statements could be fakes made to look as if they're from a real bank. Or the bank itself could be a fake. Unless you have proof that the bank rep works for a genuine bank and that the statements are real.
The bank is fully legitimate, been around for years. Many people I've spoken to have heard of it as well.

I know that the bank rep is the wife of the person who owns the bank (which is not the referral guy). I know this from my mother as well as the fact her surname is the name of the bank. Where it gets fishy is that the referral guy is personal friends with the bank owner as well as the owner's wife (the rep). That's where they have a connection.
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