A group representing Swiss bank employees demanded an apology from Credit Suisse boss Brady Dougan on Thursday after he said the practice of helping Americans conceal their wealth was the work of a few dishonest employees.
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He said the wrongdoing appeared to have taken place before 2009 despite "industry-leading compliance measures" at the bank.
The body representing staff at Credit Suisse and other Swiss banks reacted with astonishment to Dougan's comments, saying it was "hardly credible" that the bank's bosses knew nothing of the practices.
"It was common knowledge that tax evasion was the strategy, a business model pursued by many banks for a long time," the Schweizerischer Bankpersonalverband said in a statement.
It said Dougan's comments "vilify lots of employees that had nothing to do with offshore U.S. banking", and demanded he apologize to the bank's 46,000 staff.
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Credit Suisse management has accepted responsibility for wrongdoing by its staff, while rejecting any suggestion that it was bank policy to help foreign clients hide their wealth from their governments.
"Credit Suisse repeatedly said that wrongdoing was centered around a small group of employees. This reflects the findings of our internal investigation as well as statements made by the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) in their order of February 21, 2014," the bank said in an emailed statement.
When the bank sent data on employees to U.S. prosecutors investigating its U.S. dealings last year, some staff voiced outrage and went to court to prevent Credit Suisse from releasing the data.First, I don't know the facts except anecdotally from an outside practitioner's perspective. Second, I have seen enough both in practice and in other sources that I can draw inferences that have a high probability of being fair. Third, the Swiss bank problem is so systemic -- not just U.S. enabled tax evasion, but similar acts and general skullduggery, all centered on Swiss secrecy -- that Credit Suisse had the culture that led to U.S. enabled tax evasion, similar acts and general skullduggery. Are the participating employees not culpable. No. Is the institution culpable. Yes. Does that mean that everyone in the Credit Suisse organization is culpable. No. But some are. And that some has to include management which allowed the general culture where such systemic behavior could thrive until they were caught red-handed and, not only caught, but caught by some power with the power to do something about it. The Swiss Government and bankers should have done something about this long ago. They didn't. They now will be brought to task. But it is not just rogue employees that should be brought to task.
Having observed the tax shelter operations of the big accounting and law firms, the Swiss bank behavior -- exemplified by UBS, Credit Suisse and others among the 14 (as well as Category 2, who can buy their way out) -- the Swiss behavior is much worse. In my opinion. For what it is worth.