Baer chairman steps aside, to deal with U.S. probe

Mon Mar 19, 2012 7:41am EDT
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By Martin de Sa'Pinto and Emma Thomasson

ZURICH (Reuters) - The chairman of Swiss private bank Julius Baer will head a special committee dealing with a U.S. tax probe after leaving his current role, underlining the pressure Swiss banks are feeling from claims they helped wealthy Americans dodge taxes.

Raymond Baer, a 52-year-old member of the bank's founding family who has been at the group almost 25 years and served as chairman for nine, will become honorary chairman of the bank as of its next shareholder meeting in April.

As part that new role, he has been elected to chair a special committee overseeing cooperation with U.S. authorities, the bank said on Monday.

Julius Baer BAER.VX is among 11 banks - including Credit Suisse CSGN.VX - under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice. The indictment of Swiss private bank Wegelin in February has heightened tension among private bankers fearful of being next in the firing line.

In February, Julius Baer said it expected to have to hand over client data and to pay a fine as part of the U.S. probe into wealthy Americans who stashed their money in Swiss banks to avoid paying taxes.

"Raymond J. Baer will continue to support the Bank in finding constructive solutions for the past chapters affecting Julius Baer and the banking industry at large," the bank said.

A spokesman said Baer's departure from the chairman's role had been planned for some time, and was not related to his role on the special committee.

The spokesman said the committee was formed when the U.S. issues first surfaced. He added the committee would also deal with the bank's other legacy tax issues in Europe.   Continued...