You Can’t Put A Bank In Prison. Oui?

bill.mckibben.By W.T. “Bill” McKibben, Senior Counsel, The Great Lakes Group

Credit Suisse, a Swiss monster bank apparently has copped a plea with the United States Justice Department. This story has been seeping out since United States Attorney General Eric Holder declared several weeks ago that no bank is too big to jail. While that sounds tough, the fact is that banks do not go to jail, people go to jail. And in this case nobody is going to jail. Justice is trumpeting the $2.6 billion dollar fine they got Credit Suisse to cough up. That sounds like a lot but it’s next to nothing given their massive criminal activity.


Credit Suisse headquarters at Paradeplatz in Zürich (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Credit Suisse sent hustlers out to recruit ultra-rich Americans. They arranged trips to Switzerland to open a secret Swiss bank account. Now, we’re not talking about a handful of rich folks; there are more than 20,000 Americans who are said to have as much as $12 billion stashed overseas with Credit Suisse. In that light the bank got off really easy. Meanwhile it’s business as usual at the bank; in fact their stock went up one percent the day this deal came out.

How are the Credit Suisse hustlers who recruited the ultra-rich and guided them into this tax racket anything but crooks? If they recruited rich Americans to show them how to hide their bucks from the IRS in secret Swiss bank accounts, that sounds to me like they conspired to defraud the United States government. If there are billions overseas still hidden away in Credit Suisse accounts, how have the American people been served?

Why aren’t the Americans who lapped up this deal being named? Why aren’t they being charged? Why aren’t the bankers who recruited them being charged? Why aren’t their bosses who sent them out to recruit tax cheats being charged? And their bosses’ bosses and the CEO of the bank, Brady Dougan, why aren’t they all being charged? Are we to believe Credit Suisse had a crew of hustlers vacuuming American bucks – as much as $12 billion – into secret bank accounts and Dougan didn’t know? It isn’t like he is a stranger in our land; Brady Dougan is a US citizen. One wonders, does Dougan have a secret Swiss account?

We have bankers laundering dirty money of every kind, telling the drug cartels, “If it’s cash we’ve got your stash.” We have bankers scheming to fix international interest rates and help rogue nations avoid sanctions. And now adding recruiting tax cheats to their litany of bad behaviors. AG Eric Holder maintains that sending these criminals to jail might jeopardize the world economy. Really? Instead we give them fines that they see as no more serious than a parking ticket. Yet, just let any of these banks have a couple of bad quarters and watch their top guy get the boot. Executive turnover is an everyday thing; to imagine that bankers are too important to jail is madness.

 About the Author: Bill McKibben’s career in communications spans several decades. A Hall of Fame Broadcaster, writer and journalist, he has also managed and owned major market radio and TV stations as well as a communications and marketing firm. Clients often refer to him as their “Corporate Conscience.” “Play Nice, Make Money”, his book on business ethics makes the case for an Ethical Business model as the most effective route to profitability. Learn more about “ethics” at Bill’s website, Email Bill: