swiss cheddar

Around The World With Lloyd Dangle: On The Trail Of Mitt’s Money

Mitt Romney's German is fur scheiss(Zurich) The train to DeGaulle Airport was so hot that the wine I drank the night before poured out of me like water from the Fontaine Saint-Michel. My shirt was soaked and my deodorant was failing, and soon I would be seated inches from another passenger on an hour-long Swiss Air flight to Zurich. I bought a bottle of cologne shaped like the Eiffel Tower from the duty free shop and doused my armpits in the men’s room. Everything was okay at first but soon my eyes began to water and I realized that I smelled like a walking urinal deodorizer.

My European journey began as an attempt to get to the bottom of the festering debt crisis, but now I was
taking a detour to Switzerland––hardly even considered a PART of Europe––to embark on an investigation of a purely domestic nature. I was on the trail of Mitt Romney’s money.

Zurich is a subdued city located in the Limmat Valley of Switzerland at the northwestern tip of Lake Zurich where a kebob and cup of coffee will run you about a hundred dollars. In addition to being the home to the wristwatch, fondue, cheese with holes, and the most intoxicating, heroin-like chocolate ever confected, Zurich is one of the largest financial centers in the world. There are over 200 banks in this small country, and many of them reside here at the intersection of Bahnhofstrasse and Paradeplatz. From here Mitt Romney’s money can see the Alps.

“Excuse me, madame, does Mitt Romney’s money live here?” I asked a flaxen-haired beauty from Credit Suisse with skin like fresh milk. It had been a full day since I applied the cologne at the Paris airport but the fragrance reeked on. She gave me a pained look.

“Nein,” she said. She would not confirm the existence of a Mitt Romney account. The cunning Swiss! They know how to keep a secret. To get close to Mitt Romney’s money it looked like I would have to employ deception.

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I’ve always wondered what made “Swiss accounts” so special that the Richie Rich Mitt Romneys of the world would want to stash their fortunes in them anyway. To understand, I’d have to learn a little about Swiss law. In 1934, the Swiss Parliament passed the law of banking secrecy to prevent the Nazis from plundering the assets of Jews held in Switzerland, and to impose penalties on anyone who who would divulge private banking information.

The advent of the secret “Swiss account” was bigger even than the invention of the multi-function pocketknife and generated unprecedented wealth for Switzerland. It became the destination not just for Jews but for anybody who wanted to keep their money hidden. Not surprisingly this included a long list of criminals and malefactors both large and small.

Dictators and leaders from unstable regimes employed Swiss accounts as a hedge against “sovereign risk,” the possibility that a government might freeze or confiscate their assets. Legal matters like taxes, divorce, and bankruptcy were considered private by the Swiss, so ordinary schemers, embezzlers and deadbeats also used Swiss accounts to evade their collectors and creditors.

The Swiss have come under pressure from the United States and other governments to change their banking law, in order to help catch tax cheats, but nobody resists outside demands like the unflappable Swiss. The banks have made claims of vigilance against money-laundering in recent years, but they are still believed to have plenty of “black money” (assets from illegal activity) on their books. One wonders where the robotic Mormon candidate from America fits the picture.

“I’d like to open a numbered account,” I said to a rotund, mustached officer from UBS bank dressed in an olive green pin-striped suit. While I waited for him to produce the papers I snacked on a bag of Sprungli Luxembourglies, little hamburger-shaped chocolate-hazelnut puffs that have been satisfying sugar junkies since the 1830s.

“Just give me the same protection you give to Mitt Romney,” I said, flashing a 50 franc note. I looked for a reaction to my mention of Romney but the banker betrayed no emotion. After discovering that 50 francs was all the money I had to deposit he pressed a hidden button behind his desk and two polite uniformed guards escorted me to the sidewalk.

Having struck out at Credit Suisse and UBS, both of Switzerland’s “too big to fail” banks, I began working my way down the list. It was unlikely that the plastic plutocrat would have chosen one of the big banks anyway––ones that have been sued for access by foreign governments and holocaust victims’ families––but rather he’d have stashed his loot in a smaller venue that was less likely to draw attention. Another possibility that, sadly, hadn’t occurred to me was that Mitt’s money wasn’t in Zurich at all but at one of the older, privately owned banks in Geneva. Private banks offered yet another level of protection since they were accountable only to the wealthy owners themselves.

They may have long been enablers of heinous international lawbreakers, but at least Swiss banks had the reputation for being conservative in their banking practices. They didn’t mix banking with reckless lending and speculation the way ours do in America, right? Wrong. In fact, according to a former banker I spoke to, the type of excesses we’ve gotten used to on Wall Street were INVENTED by the Swiss. UBS made such colossally bad bets on the US housing market that it earned the nickname, “Used to Be Smart,” and was bailed out by the Swiss government in 2008 to the tune of 68 billion francs ($70 billion).

I continued trying my bogus bank customer routine at branches all over Zurich but by the end of the day Thursday I was still no closer to Mitt’s boodle. The soles of my feet ached and the fact that I’d had the soulless squarehead on my mind for days had taken a toll on my spirit. I got off the tram at a stop near the Staedelhofen station, grabbed a beer and a sausage for $140, and collapsed onto a park bench. I broke out a footlong bar of dark Swiss chocolate, cut open the foil and was about to mainline it when an American passer-by dropped a copy of a magazine onto the chair beside me. Goddamn if it wasn’t the August issue of Vanity Fair with ANOTHER JOURNALIST’S STORY on Mitt Romney’s money! And, according to this motherfucker, Mitt Romney CLOSED his Swiss account in 2011.

So I was scooped in Schweiz, burned in Berne, humiliated in Switzerland, but every journo takes one on the chin now and then. What really disgusts me, however, is that Romney, the Bain Capital bobblehead, slipped away with his money and his reputation intact. He may have liquidated his lucre here but he’s still got $30 million squirreled away in tax havens in Bermuda, Luxembourg, and the Cayman Islands. What is he hiding? Mitt Romney hasn’t heard the last of me.

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78 comments

  1. hagajim

    This sounds like a bad episode of "Where's Waldo". Answer – in any secret bank account in the damn world….good luck!

    1. Giveusabob

      So, African war elephants slogging thru wintry mountainous terrain are to GOP prez candidate(s) as newly-elected Roman dictator AND former Senator Fabius Maximus is to Obama?

      That's a hefty, convoluted PhD thesis there, enough to make Barbara Tuchman weep in tears of semi-erotic joy.

    2. natoslug

      Wouldn't it be easier dropping a mouse* behind the elephants? Dragging them sounds like a lot of work.

      *Bugs Bunny would never lie.

    3. eggsacklywright

      I have a book recommendation for you – it's called Finnegan's Wake. You'll love it.

  2. Estproph

    "…but nobody resists outside demands like the unflappable Swiss."

    I was certain that said "unfappable". I read too much Wonkette.

  3. SexySmurf

    My shirt was soaked and my deodorant was failing, and soon I would be seated inches from another passenger on an hour-long Swiss Air flight to Zurich. I bought a bottle of cologne shaped like the Eiffel Tower from the duty free shop…

    Because if there's one thing the Europeans won't tolerate it's bad body odor.

  4. flamingpdog

    I don't have time to read this thesis, but as it is "By Rebecca Schoenkopf", has our editrix outed herself as Lloyd Dangle in drag?

    1. rickmaci

      Either Editrix has been investigating Swiss chocolate rituals or somebody who smells like one of those green outdoor public latrines in Paris has stolen her log on.

  5. BarackMyWorld

    Remember how OFFENDED the Republicans were the Tim Geitner once owed back taxes?

  6. Rotundo_

    A good move, dousing yourself in cheap cologne so you smell like a urinal deodorizer. Unless you're morbidly obese, or speak, you could probably maintain the ruse that you are French for some time. You would have to take up smoking the shittiest cigarettes in the known universe to complete the visual and olfactory side…

    1. rickmaci

      Let me summarize for you. Although Mittsby Romoney is probably faithful to his Wifey the Horsey Blond Valkyrie, he hides his money and most likely pays short on his taxes to the US government and the Moroni sect. The end.

  7. johnnymeatworth

    Mitt didn't win second prize in any beauty contest I can think of–he shan't get my ten dollars!

  8. Giveusabob

    So, brotherly love and 500 years of democracy and peace only net you a cuckoo clock and a bottle of cologne shaped like the Eiffel Tower? That's some serious anti-climax.

  9. Callyson

    Bain and Co…pushed employees to find out secret revenue and sales data on its clients’ competitors. Romney, the person says, suggested “falsifying” who they were to get such information, by pretending to be a graduate student working on a proj­ect at Harvard. (The person, in fact, was a Harvard student, at Bain for the summer, but not working on any such proj­ects.) “Mitt said to me something like ‘We won’t ask you to lie. I am not going to tell you to do this, but [it is] a really good way to get the information.’ … I would not have had anything in my analysis if I had not pretended.
    “It was a strange atmosphere. It did leave a bad taste in your mouth,” the former employee recalls.

    Can't wait to hear the follow up from a disgruntled campaign staffer. Just hope it comes out before the vote…

    1. Designer_Radio

      I hope that Vanity Fair article gets read by every voter three times before the election. The wingnuts who would be satisfied by not even the longest-form birf certificate won't even pretend to feign interest in seeing their criminal presidential candidate's tax forms. Someone should hold pillows over their glassy-eyed faces until not even Voter I.D. laws can grift the election for the Repiglicans.

    1. C_R_Eature

      I've been kicked by the wind, robbed by the sleet
      Had my head stoved in, but I'm still on my feet and I'm still… Willin'.

    2. GorzoTheMighty

      It all makes sense now. Ms. Schoenkope is a Euro trash girl? The dangle in black.?

  10. Callyson

    Bain…has at least 138 funds organized in the Cayman Islands, and Romney himself has personal interests in at least 12, worth as much as $30 million, hidden behind controversial confidentiality disclaimers. Again, the Romney campaign insists he saves no tax by using them, but there is no way to check this.

    And the wingnuts have the nerve to hit *Obama* for supposedly having a secret enemies list…

  11. SayItWithWookies

    Mitt's money certainly wasn't going to be accessible to a person walking in off the street into a bank headquarters. Hell, the guy who traced it probably spent days sitting at a computer in New York rather than touring the park benches of Europe swilling Pernod and mainlining chocolate bars. So sometimes it's better to take the dead-end route.

  12. Callyson

    Ed Kleinbard, a professor of tax law at the University of Southern California, says the Swiss account “has political but not tax-policy resonance,” since it—like many other Romney investments—constituted a bet against the U.S. dollar, an odd thing for a presidential candidate to do.

    Why does Mittens hate America?

  13. OneYieldRegular

    If a third of the country can spend four years noxiously braying about their dire need to see Barack Obama's birth certificate, then who am I to protest having a glance at Mitticent Romney's tax returns?

  14. Callyson

    The Romneys’ blind trust was created when Mitt was elected governor of Massachusetts. Curiously, the Romneys appointed Bradford Malt as their trustee. It’s certainly true that under Malt the trusts don’t appear to be as blind as they might be: for instance, in 2010 the Romneys invested $10 million in the start-up of the Solamere Founders Fund, co-founded by their eldest son, Tagg, and Spencer Zwick, Romney’s onetime top campaign fund-raiser; Solamere is now in the Ann Romney blind trust. Malt has said he invested in Solamere without consulting Mitt or Ann and explained he liked Solamere because of its diversified approach and because he knew the founders and had confidence in them.

    Riiight…

    1. Fukui-sanRadioBarb

      What is it with these people and stupid names?

      I'm expecting his PR Manager to be called Mint and his personal banker to be named Moot.

  15. anniegetyerfun

    "…but nobody resists outside demands like the unflappable Swiss."

    Surely you have heard of USA America?

  16. Callyson

    Romney’s financial disclosure form lists 25 of them in an open-ended category, “Over $1 million,” including So­lamere and Elliott, and they are not broken down further. Romney hides behind a disclaimer that the fund managers “declined to provide such information” about their underlying assets. Many of these funds are set up in tax havens such as the Cayman Islands, where a confidentiality law states that you can be jailed for up to four years just for asking about such information.

    And we thought *W* was sneaky…

    Christ, I am not even halfway through this article…enough for now until I can get a good, stiff drink…or something…

  17. Goonemeritus

    Romney may believe in American exceptionalism but his money seems to have a more continental outlook.

  18. BlueStateLibel

    This is beginning to sound like an interesting episode of Poirot, the one where he chases a plastic-haired murderer all over Europe and never catches him.

  19. extreme_left

    sounds like a trip to the Cayman's is needed, sounds horrible, apparently Caiman crocodiles are bank tellers there.

  20. Tundra Grifter

    For some reason, while reading this I'm listening to Off-the-Mark LeVin rant about (r)Money's Swiss bank account being just the same thing as a Democratic member of Congress investing in an overseas mutual fund.

    Well, for one thing, you don't have to report ownership in Fidelity Overseas to the IRS.

    Then he claimed (r)Money had the Swiss account because the Fed is keeping US interest rates too low. Well, interest rates are international (guess he never heard of LIBOR), low interest rates in this economy are not exactly a bad thing, and finally those Swiss bank accounts don't pay interest.

    Other than that, I think he got the story right.

    Of course, he was just reading The Sludge Retort. The right wing gasbags' go-to source. They all read Sludge right before they go on the air and call it "research."

  21. C_R_Eature

    If Lloyd tracks down those hidden accounts it's Game Over for Romney.
    He'll try to use the international monetary system to move funds away in quick jumps, but
    the jumps won't work 'cause the Dangle found the Angles.

  22. MilwaukeeKent

    Not to send Lloyd/Rebecca on another snipe hunt here, but if you can follow the clues to just the right cuckoo clock in Switzerland, at midnight local time the cuckoo pops out with Mitt Romney's secret bank account number written on a little tag of paper in its beak.
    Oh shit, I think I just gave away the plot to a future Nicholas Cage film.

  23. TribecaMike

    A tip to Ms. Schoenkopf: Check out Bank of Trieste account no. 499231076548. Now with that finally off my chest, I bite this poison pellet. Tell my hamsters I love them!… arrrrrgggghhhhhh

  24. PubOption

    The Chevy symbol needs to come off the picture, Mitt would never drive anything that proletarian.

  25. shortsandpants

    Every good investor knows that putting all of their money into U.S. war bonds is not only patriotic, but very lucrative.

  26. kittensdontlie

    Give the guy a break! The RomneyVader fancies himself as a Jew, as the poors have a bead on his bountiful legal tender. Ann's horses can't dressage themselves!

  27. Negropolis

    Switzerland is a beautiful, but intensely weird little county. It's a nation full of quiet little rooms and minarets just the right height…

  28. DahBoner

    She was gonna go ot to Montrose, but some stupid with a flaregun burned the whole place to the ground…

  29. An_Outhouse

    I always wanted to live on or at least walk down a street that ended with '…platz'.

  30. Rorgg

    Someone with better German than one class 18 years ago confirm my reading:

    "It's sweet to be with my money in Switzerland."

    Is that right?

    1. DustBowlBlues

      Too much typing up there for me to have time to read it all, but I would love to have the answer to this question. Then I could make posters repeating those funny looking words and put them all over town as a hugely ironic joke on the semi-literates in my little spot of rural OK. English is a tough climb for them but German would turn the climb into the Alps.

      Wait–I'd be arrested by the county sheriff, who is a friend, for suspected tarerism. I don't want to put Mike in that position, so I guess I'll just put it on FB and hope it says what you think it does.

  31. Ducksworthy

    The little people just don't understand these things. That's why we don't want them to vote. The End.

Comments are closed.