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Senate panel says Credit Suisse helped hide US assets

WASHINGTON — Senators on both sides of the aisle criticized Credit Suisse at a hearing Wednesday, saying it helped thousands of Americans hide billions of dollars in assets from US tax authorities.

“We’re interested in collecting taxes that we’re owed, that were evaded,” said Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who heads the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. “We simply have got to use our own domestic laws to force cooperation from the banks.”

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The hearing was the result of a two-year investigation into practices at the bank from 2001 through 2008, when, Senate investigators said, Credit Suisse bankers actively recruited American clients and helped them hide money offshore.

Brady W. Dougan, the chief executive of the Zurich-based bank, said that only a small number of employees were involved in such activity and that Credit Suisse had moved decisively to improve compliance in the last five years.

“While that employee misconduct violated our policies and was unknown to our executive management” Dougan said, “we accept responsibility for and deeply regret these employees’ actions.”

But that apology did little to appease the committee, whose members expressed doubt that executives did not know that the bank was helping its American customers evade taxes, and anger that no employees had been fired for misconduct.

“If you believe that, I have some beachfront property in Arizona I’d like you to look at,” said Senator John McCain of Arizona, the ranking Republican on the committee.

The Senate investigation found that Credit Suisse held as many as 22,000 American accounts with assets worth an estimated $10 billion to $12 billion.

Thus far, the identities of about 1 percent of account holders have been revealed to American authorities, though Credit Suisse has closed most of those accounts.

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