UBS pays $545 million over FX and rate fraud

UBS, Switzerland's largest bank, says that it will plead guilty to fraud in the US for manipulating benchmark interest rates and pay $545 million in fines and penalties.

UBS pays $545 million over FX and rate fraud
Photo: Martin Abegglen

A 2012 agreement between the bank and US authorities to drop charges over the so-called Libor scandal had been overturned by officials, the bank said in a statement issued on Wednesday.

UBS said it had agreed to plead guilty to one count of fraud in connection with manipulation of the Libor rate, pay a $203 million fine and accept a three-year term of probation.

UBS was fined 1.4 billion francs ($1.49 billion) in 2012 by Swiss authorities for its part in manipulating the benchmark rate.

The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and the Connecticut Department of Banking also jointly issued a finding that UBS engaged in “unsafe and unsound business practices” relating to its foreign exchange business.

UBS said it had not been criminally charged with regard to its FX operations but it is to pay the Fed a penalty of $342 million and has agreed to “undertake a series of remedial measures”.

“The conduct of a small group of employees was unacceptable and we have taken appropriate disciplinary actions,” UBS Chairman Axel Weber and CEO Sergio Ermotti said in a joint statement.

They said that UBS “self-detected this matter” and reported it to the US Department of Justice and other authorities.

“Our actions demonstrate our determination to pursue a policy of zero tolerance for misconduct and a desire to promote the right culture in our industry”.

UBS said it continues to cooperate with ongoing investigations, including investigations of individuals by American authorities.

Despite the significant penalties, UBS said it had already made provisions for the payments and said there would be no financial impact on second quarter 2015 results.

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How to avoid the most common online scams in Switzerland

Swiss authorities are warning the public against the most common current online, telephone and postal scams and issuing useful advice on how to avoid these shady schemes.

How to avoid the most common online scams in Switzerland
Beware of scams circulating in Switzerland. Photo by Greg Baker / AFP

The number of attempts to extort money from unsuspecting individuals is on the rise in Switzerland, and the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), as well as other authorities, are advising the public to be vigilant of any scheme asking for bank account or credit card numbers.

These are some of the most common scams that should ring alarm bells:

Tax arrears

Geneva officials have alerted taxpayers not to fall victim to telephone scams where the callers identify themselves as employees of the cantonal tax office. The person is told that he or she owes money for unpaid taxes, and callers demand the number of the bank account to withdraw the amount owed.

In case the taxpayer refuses, fake employees threaten the victim with a 200,000-franc fine. If the person is elderly — often the most vulnerable victim — the scammers exert pressure by saying their social security payments will be suspended until payment is made.   

Geneva authorities urge the public to inform the police if they receive such a phone call.

READ MORE: Switzerland: Zug residents receive fake letters telling them to quarantine

Package delivery against payment

You may receive an email, supposedly from well-known parcel delivery services, notifying you that a package addressed to you will be delivered once payment is made.

The parcel notification email contains a link to a page asking for credit card details or to activate a service on the mobile phone by sending a text message.

IT support

A caller pretending to be an employee of Microsoft or another IT company tells you that your computer is infected with a virus and new software has to be installed.

The aim of these cyber-attackers is to trick you into downloading a program that will give them access to your computer. 

In most cases, the callers will also try to sell you software licence or another service by asking for your credit card information.

Competitions and prizes

You may get emails, allegedly from well-known Swiss retailers, promising you vouchers for expensive prizes. But in order to receive them, personal data such as credit card details, name, email address, and mobile phone number have to be entered on a fake website.

The fee is immediately charged to your credit card and, unbeknownst to you, you will take out an expensive long-term subscription to a product or service you may or may not get.

The list of all the current scams in Switzerland is here.

If you receive any of the above or similar messages by post, email or phone, the NCSC advises to:

  • Ignore these messages by hanging up the phone and / or deleting emails, moving them to the Spam folder
  • Never give out your credit card number or bank account information to people you don’t know
  • If you did give your card number, contact your credit card company immediately to have the card blocked. Likewise, if you gave out your banking details, get in touch with your bank.
  • In the event of financial loss, the NCSC recommends filing a criminal complaint with the cantonal prosecution authorities. You can search for police stations in your area and their telephone numbers on the Police website.

A good rule to remember is that if an offer or a deal sound too good to be true, or if threats and pressure are involved, they are more than likely scams.

READ MORE: Swiss public warned about fake emails sent from banks and police