In Rare Concession, Credit Suisse Admits Criminal Wrongdoing

Credit Suisse will plead guilty to criminal charges and pay over $2 billion in fines in connection to allegations of tax evasion. But the CEO and chairman are reportedly expected to keep their jobs.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

The Justice Department also criminally charged the Swiss bank Credit Suisse today with helping Americans evade taxes. A plea hearing is set for later this hour. NPR's Yuki Noguchi is following this tory and joins us now. Hi.

YUKI NOGUCHI, BYLINE: Hello, Robert.

SIEGEL: Today would cap an investigation of not just the Justice Department but also the New York State Department of Financial Services. What exactly is Credit Suisse charged with doing here?

NOGUCHI: Well, willingly aiding and assisting and allowing its U.S. clients to avoid taxes, including falsifying income tax returns and other documents to the IRS. Now, of course, this is something that has been on the books for 20 years, the laws - I mean, many years. And it's sort of a statement that the Department of Justice is trying to make about cracking down on tax evasion. And there's a strong impetus here for the Justice Department to go after banks criminally because, you know, there's been a reputation that they've been soft on the banks in recent years.

SIEGEL: Criminally. In 2009, the bank UBS was fined $780 million for doing similar things. But that was not a criminal case; is that right?

NOGUCHI: Right. That was a deferred prosecution agreement in that case, and the government later dropped that case. Now, what I'm hearing could be different about this Credit Suisse case is that Credit Suisse will probably not hand over some of the client information, which is what UBS did. So, there may be some subtle differences herein the cases. We have yet to sort of have some details come out. So, the detail's a little bit sketchy.

SIEGEL: How might all of this affect the bank's business?

NOGUCHI: Well, I mean, it already has in the sense that the stock has taken a huge hit. But, you know, the reports are that Credit Suisse has negotiated a plea deal here that will enable it to continue to do business in the U.S. I mean, it's important for an international bank to be able to do business in the U.S. And so the assumption here is that they will continue to be able to operate in the U.S. The reports say that they will continue to have their leadership intact. And, you know, they should be able to, you know, continue to do business as usual but that in exchange, they have to pay this hefty fine and also the criminal plea.

SIEGEL: And that plea is something we expect within the hour you say.

NOGUCHI: Yes. There's a press conference scheduled for 6 p.m. tonight and a plea hearing at 5:30.

SIEGEL: OK. That's NPR's Yuki Noguchi. Thanks.

NOGUCHI: Thank you.

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