Douglas Hornung, a Geneva-based lawyer, said Switzerland’s second largest bank and four others are viewed by Washington as more guilty than UBS, which in 2009 agreed to pay $780 million to settle civil and criminal charges by the US government for aiding tax cheats.
“In the eyes of the Americans, five (Swiss) banks currently targeted are more culpable than UBS, so much that the penalty will be necessarily more significiant, at least for HSBC and Credit Suisse,” Hornung told L’Agefi, a French-language business journal, in an interview published on Monday.
In addition to paying the fine, to avoid prosecution and a possible ban on operating in the US, UBS was also required to hand over account details of 4,500 US clients.
Hornung said that HSBC faces a $1-billion fine, while Julius Bär, the Zurich-based private bank, will likely have to cough up several hundred million dollars.
The cantonal banks of Zurich and Basel are also believed among those targeted.
Hornung is representing an employee of HSBC, implicated in aiding tax evasion, who has filed an objection to a decision by the federal government to deliver his name to US authorities.
The federal criminal court ruled against the employee at the end of April but Hornung said four civil procedures remain under way.
Last week, MPs in Bern rejected an agreement with the US, backed by the Swiss federal government, to temporarily lift banking secrecy laws to allow Swiss banks to settle with American authorities over past tax evasion cases.
The agreement was never made public but was expected to include significant fines against 14 Swiss banks.