Swiss vault operator wants U.S. gold bugs out
By Clementine Wallop and Tatyana Shumsky
The Wall Street Journal
Monday, February 25, 2013
U.S. gold bugs who sought to store their gold overseas are under pressure from vault operator Via Mat International.
The Swiss-based company said it will no longer offer to store gold outside of the U.S. to private clients with potential U.S. tax liability, starting from the middle of 2013. The company attributed the decision to regulatory changes without specifying exactly what regulations led to the decision.
Via Mat's move targets the heart of the gold-bug movement. While many investors seek gold as a haven from inflation, currency risk, or economic uncertainty, for some, owning gold isn't enough. Only gold stored outside of Uncle Sam's reach will do.
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That's because these gold bugs worry that rising U.S. debt will trigger a replay of 1933's Gold Confiscation Act. These fears have led to swelling bullion inventories in London, Zurich, Singapore, and Hong Kong, with banks and vault operators opening new storage facilities to meet rising demand in recent years. Other worries include the collapse of the financial system or a particular bank, which had been a prominent worry since the 2008 financial crisis destabilized a number of U.S. and global banks.
Via Mat's response to shifting financial regulations comes just weeks after Swiss banks USB and Credit Suisse adjusted their gold storage fees to encourage customers to hold individual storage accounts. Previously, the banks pooled their clients' gold and kept it on their own balance sheets, but post-financial crisis regulations prompted the shift by requiring banks to set aside more capital to back such assets.
But as governments ratchet up their oversight of the financial world, options for holding wealth outside of their purview are shrinking, especially for gold bugs.
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