While U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has become synonymous with the belief that some banks are simply “too big to jail”, he can now hang his hat on the fact that under his watch a bank has been found guilty of criminal practices during his watch.
A Virginia federal court filing in Alexandria accuses Credit Suisse Group AG (ADR) (NYSE:CS) of conspiring to in part “advise the preparation and presentation of false income tax returns and other documents to the Internal Revenue Service.” The bank is expected to plead guilty to a single count of conspiring to aid tax evasion. The company that has a large investment bank in New York and an American chief executive is also expected to pay close to $2.6 billion in penalties in order to remain open along with an agreement to hire an independent monitor for up to two years.
Credit Suisse failed to cooperate with investigators
The large penalties arrived at are due to the fact that Credit Suisse Group AG (ADR) (NYSE:CS) failed to adequately cooperate with investigators and was chastised by the Federal Reserve, prosecutors and New York State’s banking regulator Benjamin Lawsky.
Today’s filing marks a potential for a new era and it’s expected that a number of other banks will be charged in the coming months begining with France’s largest bank, BNP Paribas SA (EPA:BNP). At issue with BNP Paribas is the bank’s dealings with Sudan and Iran which have both been blacklisted by the United States government. Paribas is expected to be fined around $5 billion, and it’s believed that Mr. Lawsky has designs on punishing around ten employees of the BNP Paribas.
Mr. Lawsky is not just going after foreign banks as JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM) and Citigroup Inc (NYSE:C) are both currently under criminal investigations. Those investigations are in the beginning stages and it’s far too early to speculate on what, if anything, they might be charged with in a criminal court.
No charges following financial crises
While for some who believe that this is “too little too late”, at least it’s something. The Justice Department famously filed zero charges against Wall Street banks or its leaders following the 2008 financial crisis despite plenty of illegal activity. Additionally, HSBC Holdings plc (ADR) (NYSE:HSBC) somehow walked away from its own money laundering charges in 2012 essentially being responsible for coining the phrase “too big too jail”.
It was this escape artistry by HSBC that focused investigators on Credit Suisse Group AG (ADR) (NYSE:CS). While lawyers at Credit Suisse had hoped that prosecutors would settle for guilty plea from one of the bank’s subsidiaries, prosecutors chose to ignore the request and went after the parent company itself.
In a recent video, Attorney General Eric Holder remarked that “there is no such thing as ‘too big to jail,’” adding that his prosecutors continue “to pursue several important investigations” that he is “personally monitoring.”
While it may be too late to rewrite his legacy with regard to the banking industry it appears that Holder’s new motto is “too big to ignore.”