Credit Suisse granted exemption to continue U.S. pension business

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Labor on Thursday said it granted Credit Suisse Group AG an exemption from certain restrictions stemming from its guilty plea to helping Americans evade taxes, effectively allowing the bank to continue to manage $2 billion in U.S. retirement money.

A sign of Swiss bank Credit Suisse is pictured outside its U.S. headquarters in New York City, July 15, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Segar

The Zurich-based bank can keep managing U.S. pension plans and individual retirement accounts as a Qualified Professional Asset Manager through Nov. 20, 2019, five years from the November 2014 guilty plea, according to the decision. Credit Suisse had received a temporary waiver beforehand.

The department granted the exemption after a review that included a rare January hearing where consumer advocates and others pressed regulators not to rubber-stamp requests by banks that break the law but want to continue certain business lines.

“The record contains no evidence that the Credit Suisse QPAMs were involved in the criminal activities that gave rise to the conviction,” the Labor Department said in its decision, which will be published in the Federal Register on Friday.

Credit Suisse agreed in May 2014 to pay $2.6 billion and plead guilty to conspiracy to helping U.S. taxpayers file false income tax returns. As part of the agreement, it admitted that it operated an illegal cross-border business for decades that hid offshore assets.

The judgment of conviction was entered in U.S. District Court in Virginia on Nov. 21.

Credit Suisse will need to apply for an exemption for another five years to continue the retirement asset business beyond 2019, since a 10-year ban stemming from the guilty plea is in effect.

The Labor Department granted an outright 10-year exemption to other QPAMs related to Credit Suisse, but not controlled by the bank.

“We are pleased that the Department of Labor has granted our QPAM exemption following a rigorous evaluation process,” said Credit Suisse spokesman Justin Perras.

Other banks, including UBS AG, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Citigroup Inc, Deutsche Bank AG, Barclays Plc and Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, have applied for similar waivers after pleading guilty in other cases, such as foreign exchange manipulation or Libor, according to a Labor Department spokesman. Decisions on exemptions are pending, he said.

Reporting By Karen Freifeld; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn