Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority
|Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority|
|Superseding agency||Swiss Federal Banking Commission (SFBC)|
|Agency executive||Dr. Patrick Raaflaub, CEO|
Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) is the Swiss government body responsible for financial regulation. This includes the supervision of banks, insurance companies, stock exchanges and securities dealers as well as other financial intermediaries in Switzerland.
FINMA is an independent institution with its own legal personality based in Bern. It is institutionally, functionally and financially independent from the central federal administration and the Federal Department of Finance and reports directly to the Swiss parliament.
FINMA was founded on the 22 June 2007 with the passing of the Federal Act on the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMASA). This merged the Federal Office of Private Insurance (FOPI), the Swiss Federal Banking Commission (in German initials, EBK) and the Anti-Money Laundering Control Authority into one agency that is responsible for all financial regulation in Switzerland.
Banking and financial regulation has a long history in Switzerland and the Swiss Federal Banking Commission was in existence since at least 1934, before it was merged into FINMA.
Switzerland is home to two of the worlds major banks UBS and Credit Suisse and as these are significant to the Swiss economy, FINMA has a special regulatory team dedicated to each of these two institutions.
UBS and U.S. Tax affair
On February 19, 2009 the U.S. government filed suit against UBS to reveal the names of all 52,000 American customers, alleging that the bank and these customers conspired to defraud the U.S. tax authority IRS of legitimately owed tax revenue. However revealing of customer names was contrary to Swiss law and put UBS in a difficult position. Eventually UBS with the support of FINMA agree to provide the names of 250 to 300 clients through FINMA and pay a U.S. $780 million of fine as settlement. FINMA used a section of the Act provided for situations where a bank is threatened with bankruptcy to allow this to happen. Subsequently in February 2009 the Federal Administrative Court of Switzerland ordered FINMA to stop the transmission to the U.S. tax authorities. However it is believed that data from 250 UBS clients had already been transmitted.
Responsibilities and functions
As a state regulatory body, FINMA is endowed with supreme authority over banks, insurance companies, stock exchanges, securities dealers and collective investment schemes. It is responsible for combating money laundering and, where necessary, conducts financial restructuring and bankruptcy proceedings. In addition, it has supervisory powers with respect to the disclosure of participations and is the complaints body for decisions of the Takeover Board in the area of public takeover bids for listed companies.
FINMA grants operating licences for companies and organisations subject to its supervision, monitors the supervised institutions with respect to their compliance with the requisite laws, ordinances, directives and regulations, as well as with the conditions for the granting of licences that must be complied with at all times. Where necessary and to the extent permissible by law, FINMA imposes sanctions, provides administrative assistance and regulates. In other words, it participates in the amendment of laws and corresponding ordinances, issues circulars and, where it is authorised to do so, its own ordinances. FINMA is also responsible for ensuring that self-regulation is acknowledged appropriately.
FINMA is made up of a board of directors, an executive board and an extended executive board.
The Board of Directors is a strategic management body and has seven to nine independent expert members appointed via parliament. It decides on matters of substantial importance, issues ordinances and circulars, and is responsible for FINMA’s budget. It also ensures internal controls by means of an internal audit unit and oversees the Executive Board. The Board of Directors maintains institutionalised contact at the highest management level with key authorities and organisations in Switzerland and abroad. It thus has the opportunity to raise important developments and issues with selected stakeholders.
The Executive Board is FINMA's operational management body and is responsible for ensuring that banks, insurance companies, stock exchanges, securities dealers and other financial intermediaries are supervised in accordance with the law and respective strategy. The Executive Board decides on matters such as the granting of licences, key management, organisational and personnel issues, directives and supervisory matters of cross-divisional significance. The Executive Board prepares the necessary files and materials for decisions on items of business that fall under the remit of the Board of Directors and is responsible for implementing the resolutions of the Board of Directors and its committees.
The Extended Executive Board assists and relieves the burden on the Executive Board. It performs key functions in relation to strategy implementation, staff development and the representation of FINMA towards external audiences.