May 19 -Credit Suisse is the largest bank to plead guilty to criminal charges in 20 years after a long-running case against the Swiss bank for helping Americans skip out on taxes. Conway G. Gittens reports.
Credit Suisse 'fesses up and pays up. It's been a long time coming, but the U.S. Justice Department finally secured a rare guilty plea from Credit Suisse -blaming the Swiss bank for helping Americans avoid paying their taxes. Here's U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder: SOUNDBITE: U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER (ENGLISH) SAYING: "Today, I can announce that Credit Suisse has agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges related to this pervasive illegal activity. This is the largest bank to plead guilty in 20 years. The bank will pay a total of $1.8 billion in the form of a fine of over $1.3 billion and nearly $670 million in restitution to the IRS. They have admitted criminal wrongdoing in a detailed statement of facts that has been filed alongside the information in this case. And they have stopped these activities, fundamentally changed their business operations and agreed to provide critical information that will aide in our enforcement efforts so the bank can move forward in full compliance with the law." According to the case, one tactic Credit Suisse used helped taxpayers funnel money to offshore accounts, in effect limiting their tax liabilities, and this went on for decades. SOUNDBITE: U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER (ENGLISH) SAYING: "Credit Suisse not only knew about this illegal, cross-border activity, they willfully aided and abetted it. Hundreds of Credit Suisse employees, including at the manager level, conspired to help tax-cheats dodge U.S. taxes. Now in the course of these activities, Credit Suisse deceived the IRS, the Federal Reserve, the Securities and Exchange Commission, as well as the United States Department of Justice. The bank went to elaborate lengths to shield itself, its employees and the tax cheats it served from accountability for their criminal actions." Regulators and enforcers have been reluctant to go after banks with criminal charges in fear of setting off another financial crisis, but not this time. SOUNDBITE: U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER (ENGLISH) SAYING: "This case shows that no financial institution, no matter its size or global reach is above the law." The bank expressed regret for the misconduct. Top executives keep their jobs and the bank keeps its New York State license. Sentencing has been scheduled for August 12.