SAFETY IN NUMBERS: The Mysterious World of Swiss Banking by Nicholas Faith

SAFETY IN NUMBERS: The Mysterious World of Swiss Banking

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With one important exception, Faith (The Winemasters, Wankel) hasn't so much penetrated the discreet world of Swiss banking as aired all its dirty linen. And, as a scandal-monger, he suffers from verbosity. But the persistent reader, with no expectations of Paul Erdman pizazz or Anthony Sampson finesse, will gain some understanding of the system's rationale and history, if not of its latter-day workings. Faith ascribes the Swiss penchant for secrecy to the cantons' traditional separatism: ""the right of refusal was always essential for the right to privacy."" But--in the book's major coup--he demonstrates that, contrary to pious claims, the Swiss did not seal their bankers' lips in 1934 to protect Jewish accounts from Nazi seizure; rather, they wanted to block a French request for information, arising out of a political scandal, that would have led to the withdrawal of foreign funds. And, investigating the actual Nazi connection, he describes in turn the bankers' mid-'30s success in thwarting Nazi seizures; their impartial, similarly self-aggrandizing WW II services to the Nazis; their postwar resistance to Allied, and especially American, attempts to restore Nazi-looted gold to its rightful owners--culminating in the interminable I. G. Farben/Interhandel case. Subsequently, from ""The Bane of Bernie"" (Cornfeld) to ""The astonishing resilience of Credit Suisse"" (the '70s Texon scandal), shady doings proliferate--threaded through with the efforts of Robert Morgenthau, and other American officials and legislators, to mandate disclosure. The scandals are also clear evidence of the internal corruption that secrecy has fostered among the punctilious Swiss. What is not at all clear, however, is how the entire system has functioned, since the 1974 upheavals, in recycling international funds. Some valuable background, then--leaving much still to be discovered and explained.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1982
Publisher: Viking