David Kirkpatrick

March 10, 2010

A new small business loan solution from a Congressman

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:53 pm

Raise the cap on credit union small business lending. Sounds reasonable.

From the link:

Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D., Penn.) has offered one solution to this problem: lifting the cap on credit unions’ loans to small businesses, allowing them to extend more loans to help the economy grow. When I spoke with Rep. Kanjorski about his proposal, he told me that credit unions lent wisely before the crisis, and are lending more now. Credit union business lending grew by more than 11% in 2009. Now credit unions are facing a statutory cap on lending. To fill a void in business lending, Rep.Kanjorski says credit unions need Congress’ help.

Online banking scams hit businesses hard

Cybercrime against companies is particularly damaging for the victims because commercial bank accounts don’t have the reimbursement protection of consumer accounts. The $25M cited below in small business losses in Q3 2009 were due to wire transfer fraud and ACH. The takeaway here? Make sure you close control over any commercial banking function, particularly if you are a small business that regularly carries a large bank balance.

From the link:

Ongoing computer scams targeting small businesses cost U.S. companies US$25 million in the third quarter of 2009, according to the U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.Online banking fraud involving the electronic transfer of funds has been on the rise since 2007 and rose to over US$120 million in the third quarter of 2009, according to estimates presented Friday at the RSA Conference in San Francisco, by David Nelson, an examination specialist with the FDIC.

The FDIC receives a variety of confidential reports from financial institutions, which allow it to generate the estimates, Nelson said.

Almost all of the incidents reported to the FDIC “related to malware on online banking customers’ PCs,” he said. Typically a victim is tricked into visiting a malicious Web site or downloading a Trojan horse program that gives hackers access to their banking passwords. Money is then transferred out of the account using the Automated Clearing House (ACH) system that banks use to process payments between institutions.

December 26, 2009

2010 — a look back, a look ahead

The New York Times has an AP article today that looks back at the last ten years and makes a few projections for the next ten covering nine sectors: banking, real estate, retail, health, manufacturing, automobiles, energy, airlines and media/technology.

From the link, here’s what the article predicts for energy:

THE DECADE AHEAD: By 2019, many cars may get 50 miles per gallon or better. Improved gas mileage, rising prices for gasoline and more energy-efficient homes are seen keeping demand for oil and natural gas at moderate levels in the U.S.

Even so, nearly half of the nation’s electricity still will come from coal even with more wind and solar energy sources.

November 17, 2009

Small business loans down over $10B

Yep, you read that header correctly — more than ten billion dollars of available credit has disappeared for small business while Wall Street and big banking rolls in federal funds.


From the link:

The 22 banks that got the most help from the Treasury’s bailout programs cut their small business loan balances by a collective $10.5 billion over the past six months, according to a government report released Monday.

Three of the 22 banks make no small business loans at all. Of the remaining 19 banks, 15 have reduced their small business loan balance since April, when the Treasury department began requiring the biggest banks receiving Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funding to report monthly on their small business lending.

October 9, 2009

RAND Corporation — defense is the best cyberattck offense

Cybersecurity news from the RAND Corporation:

U.S. Must Focus on Protecting Critical Computer Networks from Cyber Attack

Because it will be difficult to prevent cyber attacks on critical civilian and military computer networks by threatening to punish attackers, the United States must focus its efforts on defending these networks from cyber attack, according to a new RAND Corporation study.

The study finds that the United States and other nations that rely on externally accessible computer networks—such as ones used for electric power, telephone service, banking, and military command and control—as a foundation for their military and economic power are subject to cyber attack.

“Adversaries in future wars are likely to go after each other’s information systems using computer hacking,” said Martin C. Libicki, the report’s lead author and senior management scientist at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. “The lessons from traditional warfare cannot be adapted to apply to attacks on computer networks. Cyberspace must be addressed in its own terms.”

Working against connected but weakly protected computer systems, hackers can steal information, make the systems malfunction by sending them false commands and corrupt the systems with bogus information.

In most instances, the damage from cyber attacks is temporary and repeated attacks lead the victim to develop systems that are more difficult to penetrate. The RAND study finds that military cyber attacks are most effective when part of a specific combat operation—such as silencing a surface-to-air missile system protecting an important target—rather than as part of a core element in a long, drawn out military or strategic campaign.

Libicki says it is difficult to determine how destructive a cyber attack would be. Damage estimates from recent cyber attacks within the United States range from a few billion dollars to hundreds of billions of dollars a year.

The study indicates that cyber warfare is ambiguous, and that it is rarely clear what attacks can damage deliberately or collaterally, or even determine afterward what damage was done. The identity of the attacker may be little more than guesswork, which makes it hard to know when someone has stopped attacking. The cyber attacker’s motivation, especially outside physical combat, may be equally unclear.

The weapons of cyber war are amorphous, which eliminates using traditional approaches to arms control. Because military networks mostly use the same hardware and software as civilian networks, they have similar vulnerabilities.

“This is not an enterprise where means and ends can be calibrated to one another,” Libicki said. “As a result, it is ill-suited for strategic warfare.”

Because offensive cyber warfare is more useful in bothering, but not disarming, an adversary, Libicki does not recommend the United States make strategic cyber warfare a priority investment. He says similar caution is needed for deterring cyber warfare attacks, as it is difficult to attribute a given attack to a specific adversary, and the lack of an ability to counterattack is a significant barrier.

Instead, Libicki says the United States may first want to pursue diplomatic, economic and prosecutorial efforts against cyber attackers.

The study, “Cyberdeterrence and Cyberwar,” was prepared by RAND Project AIR FORCE, a federally funded research and development center for studies and analysis aimed at providing independent policy alternatives for the U.S. Air Force.

About the RAND Corporation

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit research organization providing objective analysis and effective solutions that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors around the world.

October 8, 2009

Can outlier detection protect banking?

Because we know everything in place up to the end of last year failed miserably.

The release:

Banking on outlier detection

Simple computer model could act as early warning system for failing banks

Recent bank failures point to the continuing need for vigilance by regulators and investors. Now, a report in the International Journal of Operational Research, discusses the possibility of an early-warning system that spots the outliers before they fail.

The downfall of dozens of banks and financial organizations across the globe has been in the headlines since the meltdown of the subprime mortgage market, but even during the decade before, 1997 to 2007, more than forty banks failed in the US.

Randall Kimmel of the Department of Finance, at Kent State University, and colleagues David Booth and Stephane Elise Booth explain that there are numerous financial computer models that can predict specific outcomes for a given bank. However, these programs require large amounts of data available only to the banks themselves and the regulators and this data requires lots of preparation and manipulation for the model to work properly.

Bank regulators have the resources to handle the data and to use the complex computer models. But, these are significant barrier for researchers and individual investors. Kimmel and colleagues have now shown that a simple model with minimal data demands can be effective in the early detection of potentially troubled banks.

They suggest that banks that are similar to one another in size, based on total assets or total loans, should be similar to one another in terms of the associated returns or risk factors, namely net operating income and net loan losses respectively. “The further from its peers a bank is in terms of these variables, the more likely it is a potentially troubled bank,” Kimmel explains, “In terms of statistical analysis, such a bank would be an outlier.”

A problem bank can be defined as a bank with lots of high risk assets compared with total reserves, it is usually one that is performing poorly relative to other banks of a similar size – it is a statistical outlier, in other words. Such outliers distort the traditional statistical analyses making it difficult to spot them among the more average performers.

The KSU team has now developed a new application of a mathematical model, a Locally Weighted Scatter Plot Smooth, which they say requires minimal data preparation. More critically, it can be run in many off-the-shelf statistical software packages. Their model could be very effective as an early warning system for detecting potential bank failures.

“Our solution to this problem is to use a special type of regression, called LOESS,” explains Kimmel, “It gives more weight to the information about a particular bank the more similar it is to a peer bank, using this to build a profile (prediction equation) of what a bank should look like.” He adds that one then compares the actual information from the banks, which is in the public domain, with this profile. “Our research indicates that this technique, using readily available information and statistical software, is able to identify potentially problematic banks,” says Kimmel.

The researchers suggest that the same approach could be extended to the analysis of other industries, especially those that are highly regulated like utilities.


“The analysis of outlying data points by robust Locally Weighted Scatter Plot Smooth: a model for the identification of problem banks” in Int. J. Operational Research, 2010, 7, 1-15

October 2, 2009

Nice job BoA

Filed under: Business, et.al. — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:16 pm

You’ve received a massive amount of public money to stay in business. The general public isn’t too pleased with the entire process.

And then one of your branches goes out and does this:

A bank in Florida refused to cash a check for an armless man because he could not provide a thumbprint.

“They looked at my prosthetic hands and the teller said, ‘Well, obviously you can’t give us a thumbprint’,” Steve Valdez told CNN on Wednesday.

But he said the Bank of America Corp branch in downtown Tampa, Florida, still insisted on a thumbprint identification for him to cash a check drawn on his wife’s account at the bank, even though he showed them two photo IDs.

In the incident last week, a bank supervisor told Valdez he could only cash the check without a thumbprint if he brought his wife in with him or he opened an account with them.

Of course, since that branch didn’t have anyone with a brain in a position to override the policy, the bank might be in a bit of hot water:

Valdez said his treatment by the bank violated the U.S. Americans with Disability Act requiring institutions to provide reasonable accommodation to disabled persons.

October 1, 2009

In the red FDIC …

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:53 pm

… turns to accounting trickery to get above the water line.

July 24, 2009

End of credit crunch in sight?

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:43 pm

Maybe. If nothing else things are looking better. Seems like a lot of indicators are on the uptick right now.

From the first link:

Multiple market signals are leading analysts to bet that the worst credit crisis since the 1930s is easing, as debt markets slowly heal after two years of extreme upheaval.The return of private investors to markets they had shunned as recently as the first quarter this year, a surge of corporate debt issuance, and the easing of inter-bank lending rates all indicate that financial rescue measures by government are working, analysts said.

Yet while debt markets are on the road to recovery, turning around a battered economy will be a longer haul that’s still fraught with danger, they said.

“The revival of corporate bond issuance and the narrowing of spreads from the peaks are good news,” says Ward McCarthy, managing director with Stone & McCarthy Research Associates, in Princeton, New Jersey.

The bad news however includes “continued poor performance of many financial firms and the persistent reluctance of banks to lend,” especially to homeowners, adding stress to an already strained housing market, said McCarthy.

U.S. house prices are still sliding and foreclosures rising in many places. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has warned the job market may struggle for another two years.

July 9, 2009

Home equity credit crunch hurts entrepreneurs

Many small business have been relying on home equity loans as opposed to Small Business Adminstration loans or lines of credit based solely on the business. This avenue of funding has proven to be very, very volitile in today’s financial market. As home value drops, banks are very quick on the draw to freeze home equity credit. Just one more obstacle in the path of Main Street business.

From the link:

As home equity lines vanish, other avenues of small business financing are also running dry. More than 40% of small business owners polled in April by the National Small Business Association said the limits on their credit cards had been cut in the past year, and 63% said their interest rates went up. Bank lending is in freefall. Even with stimulus incentives, the SBA backed 30% fewer bank loans to small businesses last quarter than it did a year earlier. The agency’s lending volume has dropped to less than half what it was before the recession set in at the end of 2007.

The allure of home equity loans is their liquidity: Business owners can tap cash without submitting detailed business plans. But easy access can be a double-edged sword.

“Used properly, home equity lines of credit are great and get the job done. But a business that isn’t self-sustaining can’t pay it back, and that’s where the problem lies,” says Norm Bour, a debt management strategist and founder of BusinessCashFlowPros.com in Laguna Niguel, Calif.

June 18, 2009

SBA’s America’s Recovery Capital loans

This Small Business Administration program looks like a boon for Main Street (remember way back when small to mid-sized business was called “Main Street?” Oh yeah, that was just a few months ago … ) as long as banks decide to play nice.

I understand banking’s fear of becoming over leveraged, and the pressures being put on banks by regulators to keep adequate cash reserves. At the same time the stimulus money was injected into the market to, you know, stimulate. Cash on bank balance sheets is stimulating nothing other than possibly some bank managers’ pants.

The program is there, the cash is there so here’s some advice to the banking world — get with it and start stimulating.

From the link:

Struggling small business owners can begin applying next week for an interest-free debt-relief loan through a new Small Business Administration program — if, that is, they can find a bank to process their application.The new “America’s Recovery Capital” (ARC) loan program, authorized by February’s stimulus bill and slated to launch on June 15 after four months of planning, aims to make small, government-backed loans available to viable companies laid low by the recession. (For full details on ARC eligibility and loan terms, click here.) But the loans will be made and managed by SBA lenders, and so far, few have jumped on board.

Before the details of the program were released on Monday, lenders were hesitant to commit, concerned that there wasn’t enough economic incentive for them. Now, with key details about how the program will work finally available from the SBA, many haven’t retreated from their initial wariness.

“While we have received a few requests from our customers, we are still leaning against it,” says John Handmaker, president of Quadrant Financial, a small business lender based in Louisville. “The guidance from the SBA indicated rates and terms, which have provided some clarity, but we’re not 100% certain about what we need to be careful of. We don’t feel we have a solid grasp of the standard operating procedures and rules, and we’re not going to jump in until we really understand it.”

May 29, 2009

Small business should go to small banks for loans

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:43 pm

It’s a confusing credit situation out there for small business, but it looks like entrepreneurs who hit up smaller banks for money have a much greater chance of securing the needed loan. If this plays out correctly on the ground it could get small business and small banking back on the same team.

At one point in time bank mangers and presidents had personal relationships with small business owners and could make gut-level decisions to help the entrepreneurs. As all the business went toward larger banks small business owners were subject to the whims of loan risk algorithms and random policy shifts that could, and did, impact the bottom line.

A friend of mine last year went through just that with a major bank that doesn’t exist in name any longer. A policy shift and manager transfer left his account wildly overdrawn for no reasonable reason from a business perspective. The event cost him a fair bit of money, but luckily not any contractors working under him or contracts he was servicing.

Small business owners, the lesson is get local with your banking, and hopefully you’ll develop relationships that can last with the decisions makers at your local banking institution.

From the link:

At first blush, the evidence seems contradictory. On one hand, many national banks have drastically cut back small-business lending. In addition, Advanta, a major issuer of small-business credit cards, declared on May 12 that it was closing customer accounts to new charges.

 On the other hand, the Federal Reserve’s April survey of lending practices showed credit conditions have loosened. The Small Business Administration says the weekly volume of loans to small businesses is up more than 25 percent since March. And community banks, those smallish, old-fashioned institutions that make up the vast majority of the country’s 8,300 banks, say that they are ready to take back customers from the national lenders.

Much of the confusion has its roots in contrasting banking strategies. Big national banks are much more likely to have been drawn into the morass of securitized loans, credit-default swaps and the like, which has forced them to preserve capital by curtailing lending.

The smaller banks, meanwhile, have traditionally made their livings off of loans that they carry on their own balance sheets to individuals and small businesses. For them, despite the economic crisis, the current situation is more or less business as usual.

Indeed, a May survey of 1,500 small businesses by Barlow Research Associates found that companies that applied to small banks for loans in the past year were three times as likely to get credit as those who applied to large banks.

May 14, 2009

Small business and no credit, an explanation

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:11 pm

Here’s about as as good an explanation as I’ve come across why big finance still isn’t putting capital into the hands of small business owners.

Big hint: it has nothing to do with the financial condition of that small business. It also seems bank regulators aren’t on the same page as the bailout artists who are trying to get more dollars into Main Street businesses.

From the link:

The phenomenon may extend well beyond Chase and its borrowers. “I’m hearing it more and more,” says Stacey Sanchez, senior community loan officer with San Diego-based CDC Small Business Finance, a community development corporation, who says entrepreneurs often turn to her institution when their credit lines are pulled. Sanchez says the increased aggressiveness on the part of lenders may be due in part to banks now being in possession of 2008 tax returns for most of their clients, which show the full ugliness of the last quarter of 2008.

And suspending lines of credit is certainly an efficient way to reduce the risk on a bank’s balance sheet. According to officials at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, bank reserves for bad loans are based on the total exposure to a customer. So if a bank has a $100,000 line of credit with a small firm and only $20,000 is drawn down, the total exposure is still $100,000, and the bank usually will reserve for loan losses based on that amount. But if they convert the $20,000 outstanding to a term loan and cancel the line of credit, or if they simply cut the line to $20,000, the reserves would be based on that $20,000 figure.

Regulatory pressure likely plays a part as well. Bert Ely, an Alexandria (Va.)-based financial-services consultant, says he hears repeatedly from banks around the country that while the White House and Treasury talk about the need for lending to small business, local bank examiners continue to pressure them to upgrade the quality of their loan portfolios. “You have a disconnect between what policymakers are saying and what the rank-and-file bank examiners and supervisors are saying,” Ely says. That has painful repercussions for business owners around the country.

March 16, 2009

New banking rules

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:32 pm

Regulation is coming fast to the banking world. I’m no fan of business regulation, but the financial sector has no one to blame but itself for any rules imposed from above. Particularly after taking handouts from the taxpayers.

From the link:

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will soon propose an overhaul of the financial regulatory system that is expected to give the Federal Reserve powers to monitor broad economic risks, a Treasury spokesman confirmed on Monday.

As officials grapple with the worst financial meltdown since the Great Depression, government officials plan to outline a revamp of controls over banks and financial institutions aimed at preventing a repeat of the crisis.

Geithner is due to soon outline proposed changes that are also expected to include tougher capital standards for banks, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal that a Treasury spokesman said is accurate.

The administration’s goal is to unveil its proposals before the meeting of the heads of state of the Group of 20 rich and developing economies in early April, the report said.

The rules are further expected to aim to ensure that banks cannot shop among different regulatory agencies to obtain the most lenient supervision and require more transparency and stricter rules for the way money flows between banks.

February 2, 2009

Tips for small businesses and banking

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:13 pm

This is an informative article for small business owners and how to develop a solid relationship with a bank. If you fall under this category I highly recommend hitting this link for the entire piece.

From the link:

Q.What is your top piece of advice for small-business owners who are worried about their ability to continue financing their company in this credit environment?

A. You may have a great relationship with your bank, but you should always have a backup relationship. That is really critical in today’s environment. You should visit a number of financial institutions and get a feel for which ones are seeking business like yours. Many banks offer small-business loans, but they don’t specialize in them. And some banks only specialize in small-business loans to certain industries. So ask the bankers if they would be open to extending credit to your business, and if so, under what terms. You may find that the loan window is open for you, and you may find that it’s not.

January 27, 2009

Bank bailout heading to trillions

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:00 pm

Hopefully there’s at least some return on this investment.

From the link:

While the Obama administration hasn’t asked Congress for more money yet, some experts warn that government spending on support for struggling financial services companies will ultimately reach into the trillions of dollars.

The first half of the controversial $700 billion program to help banks has already been spent — mostly on buying up preferred shares of troubled banks.

Part of the remaining $350 billion may be used to purchase troubled assets from bank balance sheets and place them in what Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. chief Sheila Bair has dubbed an “aggregator bank.”

And while taxpayers will surely recover some of that sum eventually, more money is likely to be needed in order for the bank rescue to work.

December 17, 2008

Morgan Stanley announces almost $2.4B quarterly loss

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:33 pm

Overall the bank posted a net gain for the year, but the final quarter was predictably brutal.

From the link:

Morgan Stanley reported a fourth-quarter loss of $2.36 billion — or $2.34 a share — on Wednesday, as the bank remained battered by old investments.

The quarter was Morgan’s first loss this year, though it did not outweigh the profit earned earlier this year. Morgan reported a full-year profit of $1.59 billion, or $1.54 a share.

Revenue in every corner of the bank fell, even when compared with last quarter, showing a deteriorating environment that cut across businesses. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had forecast a loss of 34 cents a share. The loss from continuing operations for the quarter, which does not include Discover, the credit card unit that was spun off, was $2.20 billion, or $2.24 a share

October 27, 2008

Well, the “bailout” was a rousing success

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:35 pm

Not so much.

From the link:

First, the $700 billion rescue for the U.S. economy was about buying devalued mortgage-backed securities from tottering banks to unclog frozen credit markets.

Then it was about using $250 billion of it to buy stakes in banks. The idea was that banks would use the money to start making loans again.

But reports surfaced that bankers might instead use the money to buy other banks, pay dividends, give employees a raise and executives a bonus, or just sit on it. Insurance companies now want a piece; maybe automakers, too, even though Congress has approved $25 billion in low-interest loans for them.

Three weeks after becoming law, and with the first dollar of the $700 billion yet to go out, officials are just beginning to talk about helping a few strapped homeowners avoid losing their homes in foreclosures.

As the crisis worsens, the government’s reaction keeps changing. Lawmakers in both parties are starting to gripe that the bailout is turning out to be far different from what the Bush administration sold to Congress.

September 25, 2008

Federal regulators take over Washington Mutual

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:28 pm

While still negotiating the financial crisis bailoutthe government seized the failing commercial bank, Washington Mutual. It is the largest bank failure in US history. JPMorgan Chase picked up most of the broken pieces.

From the link:

Washington Mutual, the giant lender that came to symbolize the excesses of the mortgage boom, was seized by federal regulators on Thursday night, in what is by far the largest bank failure in American history.

Regulators simultaneously brokered an emergency sale of virtually all of Washington Mutual, the nation’s largest savings and loan to JPMorgan Chase for $1.9 billion, averting another potentially huge taxpayer bill for the rescue of a failing institution.

Like I’ve repeatedly blogged, this issue is not going away anytime soon.

Buffett banks on Goldman Sachs Group

Didn’t blog earlier on Warren Buffett’s foray into the financial crisis morass, but this Wall Street Journal article puts the Berkshire Hathaway deal in the context of Paulson’s proposed $700B bailout.

This is the very first bit I’ve read anywhere that puts some real substance on the issues at hand and why Buffett’s deal is rational in a way the Bush 43 administration’s bailout is not as presently constructed.

From the link:

Berkshire Hathaway‘s investment in Goldman Sachs Group provides a template for how to get the financial system back on its feet.

The problem is, the Bush administration’s $700 billion bailout plan ignores some of the key lessons of Warren Buffett’s deal. Most notably: Capital, or lack of it, is at the heart of the crisis.

The proposed bailout only goes a certain distance in addressing that, so it mightn’t spark the sort of quick confidence rebound its proponents are hoping for. That explains Wednesday’s renewed stress in debt markets.

The realism of the Goldman/Buffett deal is instructive. The market was getting nervous about funding Goldman’s highly leveraged balance sheet. The bank had to adjust and raise expensive capital quickly.

First, Goldman agreed to become a bank-holding company Sunday, giving it greater access to Federal Reserve credit. Then it reduced leverage markedly by raising $10 billion in fresh capital from Berkshire and other investors. It did so even though it meant diluting shareholders by as much as 20%.

In contrast, the government’s bailout plan contains no explicit demands that banks raise capital. If Goldman needed to, others surely do.

July 18, 2008

Swiss banking may never be the same

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:15 am

Anonymous banking in Europe is taking another hit now that the IRS is after Swiss bank, UBS for aiding US citizens in dodging taxes.

The first of the Germans caught doing the same at a Liechtenstein bank was sentenced this week: 

Judges in the western German city of Bochum told the first multi-millionaire up for trial he would probably receive a suspended term of two years’ jail for evading 7.5 million euros ($11.8 million) in tax between 2001 and 2006.

Elmar Schulte, from the western city of Bad Homburg, was found guilty of six counts of tax evasion after depositing several million euros in the Alpine principality of Liechtenstein and failing to declare the interest made.

The UBS case is interesting in that the bank is accused of, and admits to, providing advice and aid to US clients in avoiding US taxation. The IRS is asking for help from Swiss authorities in the case:

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service has asked the Swiss government to help in an expanding investigation of alleged tax evasion by U.S. clients of banking giant UBS AG.

All of this bodes poorly for UBS since the CFO of the bank’s global wealth management and business banking unit has already apologized for the bank’s behavior in testimony to the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs’ Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations:

“I am here to make absolutely clear that UBS genuinely regrets any compliance failures that may have occurred,” said Branson, who joined the Swiss bank in 1997 and now oversees risk management as part of his duties as finance chief. “We will take responsibility for them and will not minimize them.” Branson announced that UBS would stop offering offshore accounts to U.S. citizens and fully cooperate with the efforts of U.S. regulators to get the names of its U.S. clients despite the difficulties presented by Swiss privacy laws.

To be sure, it’s unlikely Branson was surprised by the hearing’s critical tone. In June, former UBS AG banker Bradley Birkenfeld pled guilty to helping one client hide $200 million in assets in Switzerland and Liechtenstein, and implicated UBS in helping to shelter $20 billion overall.

Earlier this month, the IRS won court authority to compel UBS to provide the names of all its clients in the US, a list that could exceed 19,000, according to a report released by the subcommittee today.

Interesting to see where all this will lead, but it looks like anonymous banking in northern Europe may be coming to an end. It seems both French and German authorities are anxiously waiting in line to take a crack at Swiss banking once the IRS finishes its work.

Update: Here’s two stories from AccountantsWorld.com. “Report reveals UBS role in tax scandaland “UBS ‘regrets’ bank failings, executive tells tax inquiry