Ex-Credit Suisse Banker Helping U.S. After Tax Guilty Plea

Updated on
  • Ruegg Meier admits helping clients hide assets from IRS
  • Credit Suisse unit pleaded guilty in 2014, paid $2.6 billion

A former Credit Suisse Group AG banker who pleaded guilty to conspiring to help Americans hide income and assets from the Internal Revenue Service is cooperating with U.S. prosecutors in a bid for the sort of leniency her former colleagues received.

Susanne Ruegg Meier, a Swiss citizen, pleaded guilty on Wednesday in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, where she made her first appearance after she was indicted in 2011 with seven other former Credit Suisse bankers. In May 2014, a bank subsidiary pleaded guilty in Alexandria, paying a $2.6 billion penalty while admitting it helped thousands of Americans evade taxes.

Ex-Credit Suisse Banker, Firm Owner Avoid Prison in Tax Case

Three other people indicted with Ruegg Meier have come to the U.S. to plead guilty, choosing to resolve their criminal cases rather than have them hang over their heads indefinitely. Each avoided prison and was sentenced to probation. Ruegg Meier, who faces as many as five years in prison, will seek the same fate when she is sentenced on Sept. 8. She was released without having to post a bond, according to court records.

Ruegg Meier agreed to “cooperate fully and truthfully with the United States and provide all information known to the defendant regarding any criminal activity as requested by the government,” according to a plea agreement she signed Wednesday.

Widespread Crackdown

In recent years, prosecutors have charged about three dozen offshore bankers, lawyers and advisers in a widespread crackdown against those who helped cheat the IRS. Several came to the U.S. to plead guilty, some expect to go to trial, and the majority remain subject to arrest if they leave Switzerland.

A Credit Suisse spokesman said in a statement that the lender resolved the matter in 2014 and declined to comment further. Ruegg Meier’s attorney, Paula Junghans, declined to comment on the plea.

Ruegg Meier worked at the bank from 1985 through 1995 and then again from 1998 to 2011. She last worked as the team head of the North America desk in Zurich, supervising as many as 1,500 client relationships, including about 150 with $400 million in assets that she handled personally, she said in a statement of facts.

Ruegg Meier admitted that she “knew, or had reason to know, that many of her U.S. clients utilized their accounts at Credit Suisse to evade their U.S. income taxes,” according to the statement.

Despite this knowledge, she “took no action to recommend either the closure of clients’ accounts or to inform the legal and compliance department of the clients’ illegal conduct,” according to the statement. “It was Ruegg Meier’s understanding that the legal and compliance department was not interested in hearing about clients’ conduct that might violate the laws of countries other than Switzerland.”

$1 Million Withdrawal

She admitted that she helped clients use shell entities to hide their assets and to withdraw cash to move money out of Switzerland. She told one client that Credit Suisse would close their account in 2008 as U.S. authorities intensified pressure on Swiss banks holding undeclared assets, prompting the client to withdraw $1 million in cash.

“Ruegg Meier advised the client to find another bank simply by walking along Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich and locating a bank which would be willing to open an account for the client,” the statement of facts said. “The customer placed the cash into a paper bag and exited the bank.”

Ruegg Meier also admitted that she provided unregistered investment advice regarding securities. She said that she traveled twice a year to the U.S. to visit as many as 50 clients per trip, meeting them in offices, hotels, restaurants and homes.

The case is U.S. v. Adami, 11-cr-00095, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria).

— With assistance by Jan-Henrik Foerster

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