Fischer's dispute with Swiss bank

by ChessBase
8/1/2006 – Without giving a reason the Union Bank of Switzerland, one of the world's largest, has transferred the assets of the legendary chess world champion Bobby Fischer to a bank account in Iceland, where Fischer now resides. The sum of three million Swiss Francs (US $2.4 m or €1.9 m) was transferred without Fischer's permission and against his will. Nobody knows why.

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Bobby Fischer goes public on UBS

Criticises the bank for using discriminatory measures

In an lengthy interview with Morgunbladid, Reykjavik, last Saturday July 29th, chess legend and world champion Bobby Fischer revealed that he has been in a long and difficult dispute with the Union Bank of Switzerland, one of the world’s major banks, since he received in April 2005, soon after his arrival to Iceland from a detention in Japan, a notification that the UBS intended to terminate his account, which he had held with the bank for over 13 years since 1992.

The UBS asked Mr. Fischer for his banking details in Iceland in order to transfer all his assets and deposits with the bank, around three million dollars, notifying him at the same time about its unilateral decision to terminate all business relationship with him, without stating any reason or clarification for the action. Then, against Mr. Fischer's repeated protests, the UBS, after some extension of the deadline, went ahead in August 2005 and transferred all his funds to the Landsbanki in Reykjavik. The UBS even liquidated all of Fischer's gold coins, from his match with Boris Spassky in Sveti Stefan in 1992, and other investments, without his prior approval at a time when the rate for gold was very unfavorable.

According to Morgunbladid Mr. Fischer was not willing to receive his financial funds from the UBS in this way, he reserved his rights to take appropriate actions and asked Landsbanki to return the remittance immediately to the account of the UBS where the funds have been floating while this dispute continues.

Despite several requests from Mr. Fischer himself and his attorneys in Reykjavik, UBS has been unwilling to provide any formal or substantial explanation or reason for this unvarranted action, but has only referred to paragraph 13 in its General Conditions, where UBS reserves the right to cancel any business relationship. A complaint to the Swiss Banking Ombudsman over the strange measures of UBS did not result in resolving the issue, it explained only that UBS had given some additional respite before the account was terminated and it could do nothing.

In the interview in Morgunbladid Mr. Fischer states that this discriminatory decision of UBS had taken him totally by surprise and that he considers it illegal. He claims that even though UBS reserves a right to cancel any business relationship with its clients that this clause does not apply in his case as his relation to UBS was for asset management only.

Questioned about possible grounds for this unparalleled action by the USB, Mr. Fischer says that this decision is obviously targeted at his person and adds that one senior officer of UBS had told him that there was a pressure within the bank to do this. “Possibly a third party has had something to do with this as a part of further attacks against me. In fact I don't know what the directors of UBS are thinking but it seems quite clear that the bank is afraid to keep me as a customer.” Then Mr. Fischer argues that he does not see the difference whether the bank takes orders from some outside parties to terminate his account or acts on its own initiative to get rid of him to please somebody else or the US Government. “This is absolutely vicious, illegal and very unfair of the USB”, says Fischer.

Asked about possible lawsuit against the USB Mr. Fischer explains that he does not expect to have any winning chances for the courts against such a big bank. “But I intend to proceed against the UBS in the open court of the general public.

For financially savvy readers who want to delve into this matter and perhaps find an explanation for the actions of the Union Bank of Switzerland, all of the many documents regarding the case between Mr. Fischer and the UBS (98 pages, some duplicates) can be read here.

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