ZURICH, June 18 (Reuters) - Switzerland's lower house of parliament refused on Tuesday to address a bill aimed at ending a long-running U.S. tax probe into hidden offshore accounts at Swiss banks, stalling a bid to protect the country's banks against criminal charges.
The move gives the government less time to push through the draft law before the end of the parliament summer session on Friday. The bill is designed to allow banks to disclose data to U.S. prosecutors to help settle investigations into tax evasion.
The Swiss lower house voted by a large majority not to discuss the legislation, referring the bill back to lawmakers in the upper house, which backed it last week and which could give the lower house a second chance to debate the law this week.
U.S. authorities have more than a dozen banks under formal investigation, including Credit Suisse, Julius Baer , the Swiss arm of Britain's HSBC, privately held Pictet in Geneva and local government-backed Zuercher Kantonalbank and Basler Kantonalbank.