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Markus Stocker

Between information technology and environmental science with a flair for economics, the clarinet, and the world of soups and salads.

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Forget about the times when Switzerland was known for chocolate, watches, cheese, mountains and the Swiss Army knife. Today the country is known for its bank secrecy, a term that is actually inaccurate. What in Switzerland in German is called Bankkundengeheimnis is more accurately translated with bank client confidentiality: The goal is financial privacy of the client, not the bank.

From Spain over Ethiopia to Nigeria: The last few days I had the pleasure to discuss this topic a few times. The belief seems to be, we need transparency. As Danjuma from Nigeria puts it, “if people of his country would meet a Swiss bank CEO they would punch him in his face.” (Yeah, I think, many Swiss would too.) Meseret from Ethiopia knows about money that flows from Africa to Swiss banks but he was not entirely sure why this is so. I think, I could explain him why Swiss banks for some are sweeter than chocolate of Sprüngli.

Horacio from Spain, instead, was more angry than curious or interesting. He is all for regulation, the solution is in inter-governmental agreements and cooperation, legislation, regulation and the economy. No matter what, in his opinion, the Swiss bank client confidentiality has to end (and what Austria, Luxembourg, Lichtenstein and a bunch of islands do doesn’t matter, they are not sovereign countries anyway, he meant. Uh?) I tried to share my thoughts and said that to me the fundamental problem is not in the system as much as in a lack of morality, both of who illegally transfers money as well as who illegally accepts it. At this point, the discussion escalated: How can you say it is a moral issue, he exclaimed. He knows many CEO’s who are moral as citizens but are not in their professional role, he went on.

Apparently, by closing the doors of home some leave their moral self behind, yes? No, he said, that’s not the problem and even if it would be, there is no solution to this. The solution is regulation, economists and politicians should sit at a table and draft law.

Why should I, or for that matter anyone, believe those economists and politicians are any better in not leaving behind their moral self when they put on their coat and drive to work?

(Names are fictional for individual privacy.)