More On Legal & Compliancefrom The Advisor's Professional Library
- RIAs and Customer Identification Just as RIAs owe a duty to diligently protect their clients privacy and guard against theft, firms also play a vital role in customer identification. Although RIAs are not subject to an anti-money laundering rule, securities regulators expect advisors to address these issues in their policies and procedures.
- Best Practices for Working with Senior Investors Securities examiners deal harshly with RIAs that do not fulfill their fiduciary obligations toward senior investors, as the SEC and state securities regulators view older investors as particularly vulnerable and in need of protection.
A word of advice—if you plan to help clients hide assets from the IRS, don’t inadvertently mail an incriminating list of names and account numbers that somehow ends up in the hands of regulators.
Sounds obvious, but it’s exactly what happened to Swiss financial advisor Beda Singenberger.
Federal prosecutors charge that over an 11-year period, Singenberger helped 60 people in the U.S. hide $184 million in secret offshore accounts, according to Bloomberg. He attached colorful names like Real Cool Investments Ltd. and Wanderlust Foundation.
Then, according to the news service, Singenberger inadvertently mailed a list of his U.S. clients, including their names and other details, which eventually wound up with federal authorities.
Bloomberg says U.S. authorities appear to be picking off the clients on that list one by one. Among those affected: Jacques Wajsfelner, an 83-year-old exile from Nazi Germany, and Michael Canale, a retired U.S. Army surgeon. Another customer, cancer researcher Michael Reiss, pleaded guilty, though his court records don’t mention the list.
“He was sending mail to someone in the United States, and apparently in error he included a list of U.S. taxpayers,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Levy said on March 5 at Wajsfelner's sentencing in New York. “The government has mined that list to great effect and prosecuted a number of people who were on that list.”
Wajsfelner, who pleaded guilty to hiding $5.7 million from the Internal Revenue Service, was sentenced to three months of house arrest.
The case comes as negotiations continue between Swiss banks and U.S. authorities over the latter’s access to once secretive accounts. Long a haven for ultrawealthy individuals and families, the United States has increased pressure in recent years to open accounts of suspected tax cheats.