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Banque Cantonale de Geneve (BCGE) refuses to release money belonging to her client, because he is American citizen and lives in the United States: Is BCGE (and other Swiss banks) the ultimate “black hole” ? Can we still trust Swiss Banks?

May 18, 2012 By: admin Category: Business

This posting is a follow up to the conversations I had with BCGE now over a period of weeks. Since the issues addressed here are of bank’s corporate policy and procedural nature, hopefully this posting will find its way to the bank’s attorneys in their so called “compliance” department and to the BCGE direction. They contemptuously ignored in-person conversations with the Branch Manager as well as the email on this subject.




For some time grandma, a Swiss citizen, saved and deposited, usually 100 Swiss francs at a time, money in a BCGE (Banque Cantonale de Geneve) Savings Account for her grandson. Now, when he graduated from college and is preparing to enter his Graduate School he would like to retire (some or all of) the money so accumulated in HIS account at BCGE.


He requested access to his account in order to withdraw his money. This was flatly refused by the bank on the grounds that since he is American citizen and lives in the United States, the bank cannot / will not have any direct communication with him. For the same reason, i.e. American citizen and not residing legally in Switzerland, the bank refused to give him any possibility to access HIS own money through e-banking.


Living literally around the corner of the BCGE branch, I, his father, asked the Branch Manager how can he, presently living in the United States, retire his money from HIS savings account. The answer I got from her was that the only way for him to access HIS money is to come to the bank in person. (The fact of American geography being slightly different from local parochial Geneva thinking seemed to be lost on the bank – or totally ignored).


It should be noted that the Branch Manager told me that she was going to inform the bank so-called “compliance” that very afternoon and that she would call me before the end of the day with a solution – as suggested by the bank direction and / or compliance. Week later I haven’t heard a word from her. How is that for professionalism of a Swiss banker, a BCGE Branch Manager?


When I suggested to the Branch Manager that he could sign an appropriate authorization (i.e. “procuration” in French) for me (and have it properly notarized in the United States) I was told me that the bank policy is that the person giving the “procuration” must be physically present in the bank. It seems, the only form of “procuration” (equivalent in this case of a “limited power of attorney”) acceptable to the bank for such an authorization to access someone else’s account resides on bank’s computer. The form has to be filled out by a bank employee, printed out and signed then and there by all the persons present in the bank and that such a form, blank or filled out and unsigned must never leave the bank.


A commonly used “power of attorney”, notarized in the United States, is, allegedly, not acceptable to the bank. Even as my son’s father, with his full knowledge and consent, and even with documents usually acceptable worldwide in the business environment (i.e. “power of attorney”), I am unable to assist him.


In summary, BCGE (Banque Cantonale de Geneve), gladly accepted deposits, but comes time of withdrawal the bank is making it really difficult, and so far impossible, to its client, to get to HIS money. Their lame explanation / “justification” being that, as consequence of the Obama Administration pressure, the Banque Cantonale de Geneve seems to have issued edict of total non-communication with anyone residing in the USA.


It is my opinion that a bank, and especially a Swiss bank of the stature of BCGE  should learn how to respect her clients and learn to deal with them, whoever they are and wherever in the world they may be.


Since over a week after the conversations no word was communicated with bank suggesting a resolution of this quagmire, I decided to spread the word on Internet and through my network of friends, acquaintances and associates, Social Media etc. informing the word of the BCGE despicable and unprofessional (Shylock-like) practices and inviting them this way not only not to trust the BCGE.


Parenthetically: I myself used to have a simple checking account at Credit Suisse in Lausanne since the very first days of my college studies there, October 1969. In 2010, living in California, and after being Credit Suisse client for over 40 years, I received a curt letter from the bank informing me that because of the agreements between Switzerland and the United States they were closing my account and were asking me where to wire the residual money.


So BCGE doesn’t seem to be alone in rather discourteous treatment of Americans. Credit Suisse was pretty unpleasant too.


Consequently: Please inform and warn your friends and acquaintances when and where you deem appropriate. Do not deposit your funds in BCGE


Comments and opinions


In my opinion, Banque Cantonale de Geneve (BCGE) cannot be trusted


Since the issues described here above are closely related to the fact that both, my son and I are American citizens and BCGE and Credit Suisse (never mind the world famous UBS giving clients names to the US authorities) bank’s practices are clearly and selectively discriminatory against American citizens, I informed Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, my California Congressman. It is he and his colleagues in the Congress that can influence the bilateral (financial) agreements between the United States and Switzerland. He should be fully informed where the extremists policies of the Obama administration pushed behavior of Swiss banks against the American citizens and inform his colleagues (including extremists like, for example, Senator Carl Levin) about the horrendously negative consequences of their myopic actions.


It should be stressed that the practices described here above are specific to treatment of American citizens and do not apply to other clients, Swiss or non Swiss. As I said, these practices seem to be direct consequence of the Obama administration policies. However, the Swiss bankers, BCGE, Credit Suisse and their colleagues, should be aware of the fact that the cowardly “caving-in” to the American “quasi-terrorist’ (“school-yard bully”) practices in the field of banking by the Swiss banks destroyed a trust the world used to have in Swiss institutions since foundation of Switzerland on August 1, 1291. The Swiss banks should have never, never, never caved in to Obama’s pressures! Giving-in only encourages that kind of behavior from other (European) nations (namely Germany and France). This is precisely the reason countries do not negotiate with terrorists: it shows weakness and sets precedent saying “intimidation works”.


It should also have been explained to Obama that the problem is NOT the destination country where the money is looking for refuge from his misguided taxation and “redistribution” “Robin Hood – like” philosophy. The countries, where people fear for their assets and seek refuge elsewhere should look at themselves. Interestingly enough, this very same observation was clearly pointed out on this subject in a recent Swiss television program with respect to France and flight of the French capital in the wake of their recent Presidential elections.




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