The Times reports on C1 that Swiss banking giant UBS is running scared and may give up 20,000 names of the rich American clients of its private-banking arm that’s under investigation for aiding tax evasion. The paper calls it a “step that would have once been unthinkable to Swiss bankers, whose traditions of secrecy date to the Middle Ages.”

Federal investigators believe some of the clients may have used offshore accounts at UBS to hide as much as $20 billion in assets from the Internal Revenue Service. Doing so may have enabled these people to dodge at least $300 million in federal taxes on income from those assets, according to a government official connected with the investigation.

The Times says the ex-UBS banker Bradley Birkenfeld will spill his guts in court on Monday.

“He’s going to sing like a parakeet,” one of Mr. Birkenfeld’s former clients said.

Loopholes blow bubble in commodities markets

The Washington Post says on page one that loopholes provided by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission are allowing big investors to load up on “massive amounts of oil contracts,” fueling what critics, including lawmakers, say is a speculative rise in prices.

This is interesting:

Over the past five years, investors have become such a force on commodity markets that their appetite for oil contracts has been equal to China’s increase in demand over the same period, said Michael Masters, a hedge fund manager who testified before Congress on the subject last month. The commodity markets, he added, were never intended for such large financial players…

George Soros, one of the nation’s leading investors, testified in a Senate hearing this week that index funds were contributing to the rapid rise in commodity prices and were possibly creating a bubble. If it were to burst, sending prices tumbling, the fallout could wreak havoc on banks, retiree funds and colleges across the nation.

“I find commodity index buying eerily reminiscent of a similar craze for portfolio insurance, which led to the stock market crash of 1987,” Soros said.


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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu. Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.