Credit Suisse Group AG (NYSE:CS) might owe as much as $2 billion relating to a fraud case against the defunct National Century Financial Enterprises. That firm collapsed in 2002 after investors discovered they had hidden huge cash flow shortfalls. The collapse caused investors more than $2.6 billion, and caused the collapse of more than 250 health care companies.
If the company were to be found liable for the sums, it would deliver a serious blow to the firm’s business. The company is already cutting staff members worldwide, and selling parts of itself off, there have even been rumors that the bank might split itself up, in order to rationalize its business model and return value to investors.
Now a Federal judge says that Credit Suisse Group AG (NYSE:CS), who acted as a placeholder for many of the notes issued by National Century, may be responsible for the losses of investors in the company. The claims against the bank amount to $1.5 billion, but if the money were awarded to the plaintiffs, CS might have to pay interest on the sum, bringing the total closer to $2 billion.
The collapse of National Century Finance was one of the most financially significant frauds in American history, but was just one of many similar cases to hit financial institutions in the early years of the twenty first century. The company’s former CEO, Lance Poulsen, is currently serving a thirty year jail term for his involvement in the fraud.
Credit Suisse Group AG (NYSE:CS) is, aside from Poulsen, the only remaining defendant in the case. The company was hoping the court would rule that they did not have any liability in the case. It was ruled, however, that if a jury saw the firm as responsible for the losses of bondholders, it would be liable for the return of the money to investors.
When the bondholders, which include other huge financial institutions like Lloyds Banking Group PLC (NYSE:LYG) (LON:LLOY) and Allianz SE (FRA:ALV) (ETR:ALV), bring the case against Credit Suisse, it will be up to a jury to decide whether or not the bank is in fact liable for the losses of bondholders.
The National Century Financial Enterprises collapse, and subsequent case load, highlights the difficulties inherent in fighting financial fraud and recouping losses from such fraud. It’s no wonder that regulators sometimes simply give up, like in the HSBC money laundering case late last year, though that might offer little solace to most.
National Century financial Enterprises specialized in providing finance to the healthcare industry, and its collapse brought the collapse of many in that business. The fraud perpetrated by the com pay’s executives is still resisting the untangling efforts of the courts, and it may be a long time yet before the whole mess has been sorted out.
The situation is a reminder of the amount of time it will take to sort out the financial losses, and cases of malfeasance, from the 2008 financial crisis. Many of those cases are still ongoing, and will continue for years to come. they are sure to be joined by related legal action, in court battles likely to outlast this decade.
Credit Suisse Group AG (NYSE:CS) shares were down by a fraction in the market today on news of the ruling. The likelihood, and magnitude, of a ruling against the company in this case is as of yet unknown; the ruling in today’s reports have done little to sway the image of the company in the minds of investors.