Credit Suisse and tax evasion: a fine is fine, but why no jail time?

   0   0 Blog, Enablers and intermediaries, Finance Curse

From Democracy Now!

“European banking giant Credit Suisse has pleaded guilty to helping American clients avoid paying taxes by concealing assets in illegal, undeclared bank accounts — becoming the largest bank to plead guilty to a criminal charge in 20 years. As part of the plea deal, Credit Suisse will pay about $2.6 billion in penalties and hire an independent monitor. But the bank will not be required to turn over the names of the Americans who used the bank to evade taxes. In addition, no senior Credit Suisse executives will face jail time, and the bank will be allowed to continue operating in the United States.

Indeed. Why was its bank licence not revoked? That would have been a sign of seriousness. See the transcript here.

“They’re yodeling through the Alps over the light touch. We’re talking about a Swiss bank that has been doing this kind of activity for decades.”
James Henry

According to The New York Times, the Securities and Exchange Commission voted last week to grant Credit Suisse a temporary exemption from a federal law that requires a bank to hand over its investment-adviser license in the event of a guilty plea. We speak to James Henry, former chief economist at McKinsey & Co., now a senior adviser to the Tax Justice Network and senior fellow at the Vale Columbia Center on Sustainable International Investment.”

See also:

  • This interview of Rudolf Elmer, the Swiss whistleblower, on the Komisar Scoop, discussing the fine in similarly disappointed terms.”I think it is an invitation to commit crimes in the U.S., because even if you get caught, there are no drastic penalties. . . The settlement is even inconsistent with Swiss law. If you have a guilty plea for such a crime in Switzerland, you will lose your Swiss license and management will be taken to court.”
  • This Naked Capitalism article entitled DoJ Does Victory Lap on Credit Suisse Guilty Plea on Single Criminal Charge.
  • Tax Analysts: The Punishment of Credit Suisse is not enough. “How nice that we’re being so respectful of the Swiss penchant for secrecy.”
  • This article, entitled Banks Still Too Big to Jail While Occupy Wall St. Activist Imprisoned
  • The New Yorker:
    “From Al Capone on, it’s generally been accepted that if you set out to systematically defraud the Internal Revenue Service, a jail cell is your likely destination. The same goes for those individuals who enable others to engage in tax evasion. But now a big and supposedly reputable bank has been found guilty of aiding and abetting tax cheats on a grand scale, and its business is continuing as usual.”

All these discussions and articles go against the grain of a widespread perception that Credit Suisse really got hit hard by the U.S. Department of Justice. The reality is that the fines involved may seem large to many people – but in proportion to the crimes that have been committed, they’re not.


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About The Author

Nicholas Shaxson is a journalist and writer on the staff of Tax Justice Network. He is author of the book Poisoned Wells about the oil industry in Africa, published in 2007, and the more recent Treasure Islands: Tax havens and the Men who Stole the World, published by Random House in January 2011. He lives in Berlin
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