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Switzerland: Automatic exchange of financial account information (AEOI) (Q&A)

Which information will be automatically exchanged ?

The information to be transmitted includes account and tax identification numbers as well as the names, addresses and dates of birth of taxpayers abroad with an account in a country other than the country of origin, all types of capital income and account balances. The standard covers both natural persons and legal entities. The actual beneficial owners of the account in accordance with the international provisions on combating money laundering (FATF) must be identified.

How is the automatic exchange of information conducted?

Banks, certain collective investment vehicles and certain insurance companies collect financial information on their clients who are resident abroad for tax purposes. Once per year, these financial institutions send the information to their national tax authority, which automatically transmits the information received to the tax authority in the relevant partner country.

What happens with the data that is exchanged?

Client data may be used solely for the agreed purpose, i.e. the correct taxation of taxpayers in this case. However, the standard does not indicate precisely how the national tax authorities are to do this (e.g. spot checks or extensive data reviews). Data protection has to be ensured.

When will Switzerland introduce the AEOI?

Swiss financial institutions will start to collect the account data of taxpayers abroad in 2017. The first exchange of data with a wide range of partner states and territories will take place in 2018.

Does the AEOI agreement with the EU include all member states?

Yes. The AEOI agreement with the EU applies equally to all member states. Specific agreements with individual EU countries are not necessary. Furthermore, the agreement also applies to Gibraltar on the basis of internal EU provisions.

With regard to the automatic exchange of information standard, will the United States get preferential treatment in relation to transparency of financial constructs?

The United States has approved the OECD's AEOI standard. This is based on the US FATCA model, which will continue to exist. Consequently, temporary exceptions will apply for the United States for a given period. For example, US financial institutions do not have to identify the beneficial owners of foreign investment companies that have not concluded an agreement as a Foreign Financial Institution (FFI) with the United States and are located in a country that has not concluded a FATCA agreement with the United States. However, the United States will levy a withholding tax of 30% on the gross amount of all revenue and sales proceeds from US securities.

For how long will the United States be allowed such an arrangement?

Faced with increasing criticism from the international community, the United States announced at the G20 meeting in April 2016 that it would adopt internal measures in the near future to eliminate certain loopholes and make certain constructs in the United States less attractive.

How will Switzerland use data on Swiss taxpayers with accounts abroad that it receives within the scope of the reciprocal exchange of information?

The domestic use of data received from abroad is up to the individual countries. Given that the cantonal or communal tax administrations are responsible for tax assessments in Switzerland, the Federal Tax Administration (FTA) will forward the financial information received from abroad to the competent assessment authorities for the application and enforcement of Swiss tax law.

Does the global standard for the AEOI apply domestically as well?

No. The international standard governs only the international exchange of client data for tax authorities. Transparency within the states will continue to be determined by the states themselves.


Source: DFF/SFI (Switzerland)

The ECHR ruled in a pilot case that the Greek bond haircut was legal.

The “haircut” on bonds held by individuals geared to restructuring the Greek public debt during the crisis did not violate their property rights.
In today’s Chamber judgment (21st of July 2016)  in the case of Mamatas and Others v. Greece (application
nos. 63066/14, 64297/14 and 66106/14) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously that there had been:
no violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (protection of property) to the European Convention on Human Rights;
no violation of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the Convention, in conjunction with Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention.
The case concerned the forcible participation by the applicants, who are private individuals holding Greek State bonds, in the effort to reduce the Greek public debt by exchanging their bonds for other debt instruments of lesser value. In 2012 a new law amended the conditions governing the bonds by dint of Collective Action Clauses enabling bond-holders to conclude a collective agreement with the State, deciding by an enhanced majority. That majority having been obtained thanks, in particular, to the participation of the institutional investors (banks and credit organisations), the new conditions came into force in respect of all bond-holders, including the applicants, despite the latter’s refusal. Their bonds were cancelled and replaced by new securities worth 53.5% less in terms of nominal value. This forcible participation amounted to an interference with the applicants’ right to respect for their property for the purposes of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention. Nevertheless, that interference pursued a public-interest aim, that is to say preserving economic stability and
restructuring the national debt, at a time when Greece was engulfed in a serious economic crisis. The Court therefore held that the applicants had not suffered any special or excessive burden, in view, particularly, of the States’ wide margin of appreciation in that sphere and of the reduction of the commercial value of the bonds, which had already been affected by the reduced solvency of the State, which would probably have been unable to honour its obligations under the clauses included in the old bonds before the entry into force of the new Law. The Court also considered that the collective action clauses and the restructuring of the public debt had represented an appropriate and necessary means of reducing the public debt and saving the State from bankruptcy, that investing in bonds was never risk-free and that the applicants should have been aware of the
vagaries  of the financial market and the risk of a possible drop in the value of their bonds, considering the Greek deficit and the country’s large debt, even before the 2009 crisis. The Court also found that the bond exchange procedure had not been discriminatory, in particular because of the difficulty of locating bond-holders on such a volatile market, the difficulty of establishing precise criteria for differentiating between bond-holders, the risk of jeopardizbing the whole operation, with disastrous consequences for the economy, and the need to act rapidly in order to restructure the debt.

Under Articles 43 and 44 of the Convention, this Chamber judgment is not final. During the three-month period following its delivery, any party may request that the case be referred to the Grand Chamber of the Court. If such a request is made, a panel of five judges considers whether the case deserves further examination. In that event, the Grand Chamber will hear the case and deliver a final judgment. If the referral request is refused, the Chamber judgment will become final on that day. Once a judgment becomes final, it is transmitted to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe for supervision of its execution.


Our roots in the Aviation law are very deep:  started over 30 years ago and covering almost every field of it. More specifically we are dealing with rules and regulations of the Montreal Convention, the Warsaw Convention, the IATA (International Air Transport Association) Regulations and Resolutions Procedures and also the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) Proceedings.

We are proud to be one of the few aviation law firms in Europe (if not the only one!)  to deal with disputes of travel agencies working with the  International Air Transport Association. IATA represents most scheduled airlines world’s airlines, some 265 carriers or 83% of the total air traffic. IATA manages a worldwide electronic ticketing system called the Billing and Settlement Plan (BSP) which allows for reservation, sale and payment of air plane tickets by travel agencies around the world. This is a very complex system as, at the close of 2014, there were BSP operations in 181 countries and territories. The system currently serves 400 participating airlines with an on-time settlement rate of 99.98%. In 2014, IATA's BSP processed $255.7 billion.

ELC was involved with this complex issue several times, mostly representing travel agencies which were accredited by IATA to issue ticket online through its BSP ticketing system. 

In particular, we have successfully defended travel agents from Denmark, the U.K. the U.S. and Greece  on their issues with IATA in front of the Travel Agency Commissioner (an internal arbitration proceedings under IATA Regulation) and also on arbitration proceedings under the ICC Rules.


As a founding member of the Global justice Network (GJN), our law firm participated in the GJN Spring Conference which was held in Madrid on May 26-28 , 2016. It was a very successful event where over 40 participants took part in,essentially  focusing on the Volkswagen collective claims issue. Two out of our three US partner law firms were retained from the US Judge for representing concerned American VW owners in class action. In Europe where unfortunately such legal tool does not exist claiming the consumer's rights is more difficult and in any case fairly complicated.This difference in our legal systems could well be behind the motivation of the giant German manufacturer to announce that it intends to indemnify American concerned VW owners but not the European ones. Nevertheless the plaintiff law firms members of the GJN with a solid proven record on such issues have pioneered the way of attempting to protect European consumers through an interesting legal possibility that exists only in the Netherlands where we also have a major law firm as a founding partner and have established along with the other members of our network a stichting (foundation) under the acronym CLEAN so as to participate in a collective claim, for and on behalf of European concerned VW owners who were affected by the fraud. So much is to be seen within the forthcoming months during which all concerned European consumers are invited to join the action without any obligation of their part.

In addition to the VW diesel issue , the event offered workshops on financial litigation, human rights and pharmaceutical and medical devices. ELC's partner Constantin Kokkinos who is honored to be part of GJN's executive committee intervened on several topics during that conference on the VW Diesel issue as well as on cross border financial litigation matters.  



Our Irish partner attorney B‎rain O'Reilly passed away

We are very saddened to hear of our GJN treasurer and collegue 's loss, Brian O'Reilly.

We will sorely miss his sense of humour, honesty and efficiency.

Our prayers and thoughts are with his family during this difficult time

.Brian O'Reilly

GJN Spring 2016 Conference Madrid 26-28 May 2016

Our lawyers are taking part in GJN’s Spring 2016 Conference which is held in Madrid, Spain. It focuses on cross border litigation and offers workshops on financial litigation, human rights and pharmaceutical and medical devices. A panel composed by lawyers from 15 different nationalities including our American colleagues from Lieff Cabraiser, Keller Rohrback and Jack Russo are also discussing about Volkswagen “Clean Diesel” litigation, focusing on the evolution of the case in the US where things are moving quicker and more efficient than in Europe.


EgyptAir flight MS 804 from Paris to Cairo has crashed in the Mediterranean Sea, somewhere between the south of the Greek island of Karpathos and the southeast of the island of Crete. The plane was carrying 56 passengers and 10 crew members, whose fate is unknown. The nationalities of the passengers were reportedly as follows: 30 Egyptians, 15 French citizens, two Iraqis and one person each from Britain, Belgium, Sudan, Chad, Canada, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Portugal and Algeria. Our law firm, as part of the Global Justice Network  (whose members are recognized as being among the most experienced aviation accident lawyers  in the world), is closely monitoring the situation and assessing its impacts in conjunction with its international partners.


ELC: Major arbitration successful outcome

It is with great pleasure and satisfaction that we received the final ruling of an arbitration Court that has granted a very substantial amount to our client a major construction company that had claims from a public State owned enterprise. The Arbitration process has lasted long -almost a year- and after many lengthy sessions and several hundred pages of supporting documents the Court has come into a very well founded conclusion that was granting right to our client. 

This success confirms our committment to the process of arbitration justice especially into international lcorporate and industrial disputes. Our Law firm in conjunction with its international network that specalizes into such solutions has a remarkable experience on dispute resolution process at the ICC Paris (International chamber of commerce) that has successfully handled in the past. In addition we are also familiar with the process and rules of the London Arbitration and of the recently unified Swiss Chambers of Commerce.  

U.S. top trial attorney Robert Lieff inducted today at the Elite lawyers Hall of Fame

NEW YORK: The National Law Journal announced late last month the induction of five prominent plaintiffs attorneys to its Elite Trial Lawyers Hall of Fame. The publisher awards are being  presented to each inductee at the 2015 Elite Trial Lawyers Awards today on December 8 at the Plaza Hotel in New York.
This year’s inductees are: Thomas Girardi of Girardi Keese; David Sanford of Sanford Heisler Kimpel; Robert Lieff of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein; Brian Panish of Panish Shea & Boyle; and Russ Herman of Herman Herman & Katz.
“We are excited to recognize these outstanding plaintiff advocates,” said Kenneth Gary, vice president and group publisher. “Each of these attorneys have achieved great heights in the practice of law and in generating outstanding results for their clients. This year’s Elite Trial Lawyers Hall of Fame is a strong class for sure.”

Robert Lieff and Lieff Cabraiser Heimann and Bernstein -a law firm ranked in 2015 as the number one law firm in the United States on its field-  are our selected U.S. partners for well over a decade within the Global Justice Network the international law organisation where we are a founding member and Rober Lieff is our Hon. Chairman. We are very proud of Robert Lieff and we wholeheartedly congratulate him for his induction at the Elite Trial Lawyers Hall of Fame.   


The recall of a large number of Volkswagen diesel autos (2009 and newer) is already resulting into a great deal of claims raised throughout the U.S. but also in Europe.  Our law firm is exploring the possibility  with its international associates for filing in the U.S.  a consumer class action on behalf of Volkswagen owners who have the appropriate year autos. We are already coordinating with our American partners, Lieff Cabraser Heimann and Bernstein LLP and  Keller Rohrback LLP -some of them ranked last year as top U.S. Law firms- for the consumer class action but also for a shareholders case on behalf of the stockholders  who have seen the value of their shares dropping by almost 40% in two days. Most of the publicly owned stock is traded in Germany but most stockholders are spread throughout Europe. Switzerland as several other European countries should be affected by those events both in terms of consumers/owners but also to a greater extend in terms of stockholders of the giant German automaker. Next month two of our associates are flying to San Francisco so as to coordinate on the matter with our American counterparts. We invite those interested to explore their participation into such class actions (or grouped actions in jurisdictions where law does not permit class actions) to get in touch with us as soon as possible without any obligation from their part.