Credit Suisse is the largest bank to plead guilty to criminal charges in 20 years

Secret lifts and copies of bank statements hidden inside dirty magazines: welcome to the latest episode of Banks Behaving Badly.

by Rachel Savage
Last Updated: 21 Aug 2014

It was a tale worthy of a James Bond film: meetings in a secret, remote-controlled lift with no buttons, fake visa applications, destroyed documents and bank statements hidden inside copies of Sports Illustrated (dirty money indeed). Now, Credit Suisse has owned up to an ‘extensive and wide-ranging conspiracy’ to help some US taxpayers avoid the taxman.

The Swiss mega bank has agreed to pay a $2.6bn (£1.6bn) fine to the US government, becoming the largest bank to plead guilty to criminal charges in the country for 20 years. However, the bank’s top bods will keep their jobs and it won’t lose its licence to operate in the US.

Back in 2009, fellow Swiss bank UBS paid out $780m over similar accusations, but in an out-of-court settlement rather than admitting guilt. However, the US Department of Justice pushed Credit Suisse into a plea at least in part because it thought the bank wasn’t playing ball with the investigation, according to the FT.

‘Credit Suisse failed to retain key documents, allowed evidence to be lost or destroyed, and conducted a shamefully inadequate internal inquiry,’ Attorney General Eric Holder said in a press conference. Oof.

This case will jerk Wall Street out of its comfort zone, having got used to settling out of court relatively painlessly, particularly as Holder ominously referred to other ‘ongoing investigations’. Be afraid, banks, be very afraid.

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