The reputation of Swiss banking has taken a battering for years and the hits keep coming.

The latest slew of stories about Credit Suisse Group AG’s links with unsavory clients highlights again the very long tail on what the bank says are entirely historic issues.

Cleaning up Swiss banks’ client base and the industry’s standing in the world is an ongoing effort. Inter-governmental transparency on taxes has improved and anti-money laundering practices are sharper, but there will always be great risks in helping very rich people keep fortunes outside their own countries.

After the U.S. and Europe became less lucrative markets for secrecy, Swiss banks chased higher margin growth in the developing world. They now bank many of Asia’s new billionaires, for example. It is going to be very hard to guarantee that all those clients are completely clean and impossible to be sure that local politics might not turn into a nightmare either for them or for their bankers.

To recap the news briefly, Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung received a leak of more than 18,000 Credit Suisse client accounts dating from as far back as 1940. The newspaper and other media groups found individuals linked with accounts at the bank who had been involved in drug trafficking, corruption and human-rights abuses.

Credit Suisse rejected allegations that it either failed to spot or ignored warning signs about bad clients. It wouldn’t comment on individuals, but said more than 60% of accounts “potentially associated with matters raised” in the leaks had been closed before 2015.

These kinds of leaks are damaging not just for Swiss banks’ political or moral reputations, but also to their commercial prospects. The wealthy still trust their funds to Swiss accounts because they expect their details to be protected by Swiss secrecy laws.

Leaks and whistleblowers also led to the tax cases against rival UBS Group AG in the U.S. and France, where UBS is still fighting court judgments and a $2 billion fine for helping French clients avoid tax.

Revelations like these make existing and potential clients nervous. Credit Suisse’s statement about the stories made clear it was hunting the source of the leak and reiterated its “robust data protection.”

For Swiss banking, much changed after the big U.S. and German tax-avoidance crackdowns of a decade ago. Since 2018, Switzerland has implemented automatic tax-information exchanges with about 100 countries.

But the clean-up is ongoing. A Credit Suisse whistleblower last year claimed in a U.S. court case that the bank was still helping American citizens avoid tax. The government sought to get this civil suit dismissed to protect its deal with Credit Suisse to continue rooting out offenders. Credit Suisse said in November it continued to cooperate with U.S. authorities.

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