Credit Suisse Settles OFAC Charges for $536 million


The Credit Suisse Group has reached a settlement with U.S. authorities related to U.S. dollar payments involving parties subject to U.S. sanctions. The $536 million global settlement with Credit Suisse represents by far the largest sanctions settlement in the history of US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.

The settlement arises out of Credit Suisse’s processing of thousands of transactions over a 20 year period that concealed the involvement of sanctioned parties. Credit Suisse approached OFAC in early April 2006 about an internal investigation it was conducting related to U.S. securities transactions executed on behalf of an entity subject to U.S. sanctions. In early 2007, after the New York County District Attorney’s Office began looking into several suspicious wire transfers, Credit Suisse also informed OFAC of a separate internal investigation related to its activities as a U.S. dollar correspondent for payments involving Iran, Sudan, Burma, Cuba, North Korea.

The settlement agreement lays out the decades long history of bad behavior at Credit Suisse.

“Credit Suisse in Zurich had a standard procedure of structuring payments to avoid disclosing the sanctions nexus of transactions passed through the United States, deleting or omitting certain information when transactions were to be processed through the United States, and providing incorrect information in wire transfer instructions executed through the United States on behalf of U.S. sanctioned individuals and entities. This standard procedure was embodied in internal directives, memoranda, and e-mails involving, among others, a Credit Suisse Bank Payments sector head, Credit Suisse’s Treasury and Trade Finance departments, the head of Credit Suisse’s Iran desk, as well as in e-mails between Credit Suisse and its Iranian bank clients.

Specifically, from on or about August 19,2003, to on or about November 1,2006, Credit Suisse processed 4,775 electronic funds transfers, in the aggregate amount of USD 480,072,032.00, through financial institutions located in the United States to the benefit of the Government of Iran and/or persons in Iran, including various Iranian financial institutions, in apparent violation of the prohibition against the “exportation, … directly or indirectly, from the United States, … of any … services to Iran or the Government of Iran,” 31 C.F.R. § 560.204.”

Credit Suisse is making the $536 million payment pursuant to a settlement agreement with OFAC and deferred prosecution agreements with the New York Country District Attorney’s Office and the United States Department Justice.

I would expect that a shareholder class action suit will be filed shortly as well. We have seen these shareholder suits result from FCPA settlements.