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Credit Suisse will pay a $2.6 billion fine for helping Americans evade taxes in a criminal plea deal. They become the largest bank in 20 years to plea to a U.S. criminal charge. On Monday the bank admitted it conspired to aid tax evasion. The bank helped wealthy clients withdraw funds from their undeclared accounts by either providing hand-delivered cash to the U.S. or using Credit Suisse’s correspondent bank accounts in the U.S. stated the Justice Department.

The criminal charges filed in federal court outlined a concerted effort by Credit Suisse to “knowingly and willfully” help thousands of U.S. clients open accounts and conceal assets and income from the IRS. Attorney General Eric Holder indicated the bank destroyed account records sent to the U.S. for client review, concealed transactions and “failed to take even the most basic steps to ensure compliance with tax laws.”

The guilty plea also highlighted Credit Suisse poor cooperation during the investigation. Even after the 2008 crackdown to tighten restrictions, Credit Suisse failed to conduct a thorough review and inventory of the accounts its managers oversaw. Some managers even helped clients move their assets to other offshore banks so they would remain hidden in the U.S. In citing its failure to cooperate Holder stated the bank “failed to retain key documents, allowed evidence to be lost or destroyed and conducted an inadequate internal inquiry.”

As part of the settlement and plea the Federal Reserve will receive $100 million, New York Dept. of Financial Services will receive $715 million and the Justice Department will receive $1.8 billion.  Credit Suisse is not required to turn over names of account holders as part of the settlement.

Prosecutors did take steps to limit state and federal regulators from stripping Credit Suisse from operating in the U.S. Despite calls for the contrary, the banks chief executive Brady Dougan and CEO  are not expected to lose their positions over the plea. Prosecutors are gambling that the stinging criminal plea won’t harm the bank in unanticipated ways.  

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