Bill Black: Although Credit Suisse helped ultra-wealthy Americans evade taxes, the bank will face no prosecution due to Swiss bank secrecy laws and a heedless U.S. Justice department
JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jaisal Noor in Baltimore.
In financial news, a Senate report has accused Credit Suisse of helping as many as 20,000 wealthy Americans evade taxes. So far, the Swiss bank has only released 238 of those names to the Justice Department.
Here’s a clip of Senator Carl Levin questioning Credit Suisse CEO Brady Dougan.
CARL LEVIN, U.S. SENATOR: When you come to this country, you send bankers into the United States, set up an office in the United States, help U.S. customers hide what they’re doing from U.S. authorities. That’s what you did. And now the jig’s up. You say you want to cooperate, but you can’t do it because of Swiss secrecy laws. Those laws don’t apply in the United States. You’re operating in the United States.
NOOR: Now joining us to discuss this is Bill Black. He’s an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, white-collar criminologist, a former financial regulator, author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank Is to Own One, and he’s a regular contributor to The Real News.
Thank you so much for joining us, Bill.
BILL BLACK, ASSOC. PROF. ECONOMICS AND LAW, UMKC: Thank you.
NOOR: So, Bill, we want to get your response to this Senate subcommittee report about Credit Suisse. And in addition, the CEO, Dougan, claims only a handful of rogue employees were involved in tax evasion. But the Senate investigation says as many as 1,800 employees were involved. That doesn’t sound like a handful of rogue employees.
BLACK: No. Sadly, it’s the usual story. The Senate is very upset–and appropriately–at Credit Suisse and its management. But it’s also very upset at the Swiss government, which has pretended to cooperate but actually helped stall things at every point. But probably most, the Senate expressed its disgust that the Department of Justice has simply let this twist slowly in the wind. And, once again, it’s the story that the really large banks and their senior officers get to create massive violations of the law and they do so with impunity.
NOOR: And so Credit Suisse claims they have, you know, acted within the full extent of what’s allowable in Swiss law–that’s according to a statement they released. And, you know, touching on a point you just mentioned, this Senate subcommittee, it was critical of U.S. prosecutors on relying on Swiss courts rather than U.S. subpoena law to get the names of these clients. Give us your response to both of those.
BLACK: Sure. So the game that’s being played by Credit Suisse is to say, oh, I would love to give you the records, but, hey, I’ve been sued by the Americans of evading taxes, their lawyers in Switzerland, and they say it would be violating Swiss law on bank secrecy. So, you know, listeners and viewers who have seen The Bourne Identity, well, you know, parts of that were true. And so they get enjoined, Credit Suisse gets enjoined by the Swiss courts and say, you can’t turn the information over under Swiss law. And by that time, two years had gone by, and nothing has happened. And this has happened multiple times. So by now, depending on the particulars, two years to seven years have gone by.
NOOR: And talk about the bigger picture here. The Senate is obviously going after Credit Suisse because of this, because this money is being protected from U.S. taxes. How big of a problem is this? And talk about how this is hurting, how–putting pressure on other U.S. taxpayers and how this is hurting revenue and the federal government.
BLACK: Well, that’s actually much more complicated, ’cause in truth we don’t fund the government with tax proceeds. I know everyone thinks we do, but that’s not in fact how we do it. So that isn’t really the issue. The issue is one of fairness and, of course, of integrity.
So one group of folks get to avoid much of their tax liability, and we call that group the ultra wealthy. And then the rest of us don’t get to do that. And the huge banks that make this possible in Switzerland, Credit Suisse and UBS, plus over 100 smaller banks that do this, become wealthy by doing so. And guess who bailed out the huge Swiss banks when they were insolvent during the crisis, and indeed made it possible for the Swiss central bank to survive? Well, that would be the United States of America.
NOOR: Bill Black, thank you so much for joining us.
BLACK: Thank you.
NOOR: You can follow us @therealnews on Twitter. Tweet me questions and comments @jaisalnoor.
Thank you so much for joining us.
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