Credit Suisse Pleads Guilty In Tax Probe, Fined $2.6B

Swiss financial giant Credit Suisse admitted helping Americans evade taxes, becoming the first major bank to plead guilty in more than 20 years.
Posted at 10:57 PM, May 19, 2014

The Swiss banking giant Credit Suisse has the unenviable distinction of being the biggest financial institution to plead guilty to criminal charges in the U.S. in more than 20 years.

ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: "When a bank engages in misconduct that is this brazen, it should expect that the Justice Department will pursue criminal prosecution to the fullest extent possible, as has happened here." (Via Bloomberg)

The Swiss bank announced Monday it has agreed to pay $2.6 billion to settle a long-running probe with the Justice Department over allegations it helped clients evade U.S. taxes. Earlier this year, a Senate subcommittee accused the bank of helping rich Americans hide more than $10 billion from the IRS. (Via C-SPAN)

The guilty plea does allow Credit Suisse to retain its operating license in the U.S. The New York Times writes that was an important part of the settlement, as prosecutors wanted to avoid the potentially traumatic financial turmoil of such a major institution shutting down.

"The notion that a criminal conviction could jeopardize the financial system stems from the experience of Arthur Andersen, Enron's accounting firm. In the aftermath of a 2002 criminal conviction, Arthur Andersen went out of business ... [which] claimed thousands of jobs."

The conviction is a political victory for the Justice Department and Attorney General Eric Holder, who has faced criticism for failing to prosecute big banks in the wake of 2008's financial crisis.

A video posted to the Justice Department's site two weeks ago foreshadowed the Credit Suisse ruling, and took these criticisms head on.

HOLDER: "No individual or company, no matter how large ... is above the law."

Credit Suisse might not be the only financial institution in the Justice Department's sights. Early reports suggest the administration is pursuing criminal charges against French bank BNP Paribas for violating sanctions against countries like Iran and Sudan.