US fires warning shot to foreign banks with $2.8bn Credit Suisse fine

Credit Suisse's $2.8bn (£1.7bn) fine and guilty plea over conspiring to help its United States clients hide assets from the tax authorities is being seen as a major warning shot across the bows of foreign banks.

"We are mindful that guilty pleas by a bank can have impacts far beyond the parties involved in the case," the US deputy attorney general, James Cole, said.

"This plea demonstrates that the Department of Justice and bank regulators are prepared to hold banks and their relevant employees accountable, while being mindful of the impact on depositors and the American public."

Credit Suisse is now the largest bank to have pleaded guilty to criminal charges in the US for more than 20 years. Previously rivals such as UBS have entered into deferred prosecution agreements with the regulators, and paid substantial settlements.

Credit Suisse shares rose yesterday; Brady Dougan, its chief executive, said: "We deeply regret the past misconduct. The US cross-border matter represented the most significant and long-standing regulatory and litigation issue for Credit Suisse. Having this matter fully resolved is an important step forward for us."

The bank said that the fine would cut its second-quarter profits by Sfr1.6bn (£1bn).

US officials said the Credit Suisse criminal charges were necessary because of the bank's earlier lack of cooperation and destruction of documents. They said the deal was structured to allow the bank to keep operating because of its systemic importance.

But the attorney general, Eric Holder, said: "A company's profitability or market share can never and will never be used as a shield from prosecution or penalty. And this action should put that misguided notion definitively to rest."

The Swiss government said it welcomed Credit Suisse's settlement. It said it would take no further action against the bank.

Separately yesterday, European regulators accused HSBC, JPMorgan and Crédit Agricole of rigging benchmark indices linked to the euro and warned the UK broking giant Icap is likely to accused of similar behaviour shortly. The European Commission said it had issued "statements of objections" to the three banks, alleging that they took part in a cartel to rig the euro interbank offered rate (Euribor). The charges could result in billion-euro fines.

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