GENEVA – The Swiss Cabinet has agreed to let banks make individual deals on turning over confidential client data to U.S. authorities without facing criminal sanctions under Swiss law.
The seven-member council said in a statement Wednesday that the agreement sets "parameters for cooperation" so that Swiss banks can cut deals to avoid U.S. charges for shielding tax cheats.
But it said the data "can only be supplied within the scope of existing agreements with the U.S.A. in the area of double-taxation via administrative assistance."
Last month, Switzerland's lower house of parliament rejected a proposal from Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf and the rest of the Cabinet to relax secrecy laws, despite the upper chamber's approval.
The Swiss Bankers Association said it welcomed the Cabinet's move because it "will finally create legal certainty."