As I was settling into my train seat on the way from Paris to Switzerland, I rather quickly had the feeling that I was in for a long day and perhaps a most unpleasant day at that. My goal was to establish a Swiss bank account. After a lot of ring-around-the-rosy for the past few months, I had little reason to be optimistic. My target bank was one of the oldest, largest and most prestigious Swiss private bankers. The branch I would visit was located in the business wing of one of the finest hotels in the world, so I felt that, regardless of my reception at the bank, the rest of my visit would be quite pleasant.
On the appointed day, I rang the security buzzer at the bank’s austere entrance and was greeted by a young French-speaking girl who had apparently taken the day off from middle school. Rolling out my limited French, I was able to make it clear that I was here to open an account. The young lady blinked and retreated to the inner sanctum of the reception area to return with a pleasant, if stern, older woman in tow. I was shown into a quite Swiss-looking meeting room and invited to sit at a conference table that could have accommodated the entire New England Patriots team. After a brief, all-business welcome, I was allowed to state the reason for my visit that day. I was there to open an account. Well, the bank’s officer looked at me apparently in disbelief. We cannot help you, Mr. Young. That was it. Period. No we are so sorry or we would love to, but… yak. After a little sparring, I was finally able to move things along to a modest discussion stage. As it turns out, the private bank not only would not be taking on any new American clients, but also had shown the door to many wealthy Americans with whom it had had a long-term relationship. In many cases, these clients, over the years, had turned into friends. All in all, it has been a true Swiss bank disaster, for both Swiss banks and their clients.
What happened to disturb such long-entrenched relationships? The short answer is invasive intrusion by the Obama administration and the Nancy Pelosi-led Congress. In 2009, House and Senate Democrats introduced the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act. On 18 March 2010, the final version of FACTA shamefully became law as part of the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act. Under the guise of preventing a relatively small group of Americans from hiding assets in overseas accounts, the government has made something as basic as a Swiss bank account off bounds for all Americans. What Americans are looking at here are defacto currency controls. The unconstitutional Fed continues to print more and more money as the dollar depreciates, and Americans now have the most logical self-protection avenue blocked off.
At our family investment management company and in my regular strategy reports, we operate with this knowledge and take regular steps to preserve a client’s purchasing power. In my nearly five decades in the investment industry, the task has never been more difficult or more necessary.