Swiss bank Mirabaud joins limited liability club
* Mirabaud follows route mapped by Pictet, Lombard Odier
* Swiss banks still under pressure from U.S. and EU
ZURICH, July 2 (Reuters) - Swiss private bank Mirabaud plans to reposition itself as a limited partnership early next year, following the lead of two Geneva-based rivals as tax disputes with the United States and several other nations come to a head.
Mirabaud joins Pictet and Lombard Odier in moving away from the traditional "unlimited liability" model that has helped Swiss private banks to bolster their credibility as prudent money managers because the partners would have to pay if their decisions backfired.
"We see, with the tax and other affairs, that the notion of risk is changing and evolving," Mirabaud managing partner Yves Mirabaud told Reuters on Tuesday.
Private banks such as Mirabaud have helped to build Switzerland into a $2 trillion offshore banking centre. However, these banks have come under heavy pressure from authorities in the United States and the European Union, who suspect some of them of helping their citizens to salt away billions in untaxed income.
Yves Mirabaud acknowledged that the bank needed to manage a growing level of political risk but added that protecting partners from potential future liabilities was only part of the reason for the bank's decision to change its structure.
The new partnership will encompass all Mirabaud's private banking, asset management and brokerage businesses, including its core Swiss bank, which is also seeking regulatory approval to be a limited partnership.
Established in 1819, Mirabaud said it would also open a Luxembourg bank to respond to the increasing demands of the Swiss and international markets.
Pictet and Lombard Odier's decision to change their liability status was announced in March, both citing the need to adapt their structure to help them to develop.
Neither bank would acknowledge that the move was to protect the managing partners, though Swiss banking faces its biggest crisis in generations and rival Wegelin was forced to shut this year after pleading guilty to helping wealthy Americans to evade tax.
Mirabaud will remain under the control of its six managing partners despite its structural change.
"What is key is to keep the values, the commitment of the partners to the business, our philosophy and our structures," Yves Mirabaud said.
(Editing by David Goodman)