Selective Anger at the Banks


Sen. Carl Levin is angry that Credit Suisse “opened Swiss accounts for over 22,000 US customers with assets that, at their peak, totaled roughly $10 billion to $12 billion.” He added that the dastardly Swiss hid most of the money from US authorities.

The veteran Michigan Democrat also says US law enforcement officials have been slow to collect the unpaid taxes. Nor have they held Credit Suisse and the tax evaders accountable.

In a press release, Levin announced that the US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which he chairs, just conducted a two-year investigation of the Credit Suisse affair. To be sure, Levin’s inquiry is a worthwhile expose of what happens when thousands of often-affluent citizens escape the taxes the rest of us are expected to pay.

The Subcommittee just released a 175-page bipartisan report. It details how Swiss banks in general have allegedly “aided and abetted tax evasion” by their US customers. The report uses Credit Suisse, Switzerland’s second largest bank, as a case study. The subcommittee also hearings to grill Credit Suisse witnesses.

Levin stated: “The battle against tax havens using secrecy laws to facilitate US tax evasion has bogged down, causing a huge loss to our Treasury. The Credit Suisse case study shows how a Swiss bank aided and abetted US tax evasion, not only from behind a veil of secrecy in Switzerland, but also on US soil by sending Swiss bankers here to open hidden accounts.”

Levin added: “It’s time to ramp up the collection of taxes due from tax evaders on the billions of dollars hidden offshore.”

In this affair, the US portrays itself as an apostle of justice lowering the boom on the evil banking gnomes infesting the peaceful Alpine nation. But the US isn’t exactly in a position to take the high ground about financial integrity. The US government will not only seek tax revenues from money stashed in overseas accounts. Without blinking, it will also waste gargantuan amounts of tax dollars right here at home.

Let’s recall that the US government bailed out banks to the tune of $700 billion or more only a few short years ago. That debacle alone dwarfs the Credit Suisse Affair. Furthermore, past US Treasury Secretaries Henry Paulson and Timothy Geithner are bankers who were drawn from ranks of Goldman Sachs. Geithner was also on the New York Federal Reserve Board. The private Fed creates the money that the public Treasury handles for government functions.

Across the aisle from Levin is that pillar of integrity, Sen. John McCain. The Arizona Republican declared: “For too long, international financial institutions like Credit Suisse have profited from their offshore tax-haven schemes while depriving the US economy of billions of dollars in tax revenues by facilitating US tax evasion.”

A recent Citizens for Tax Justice report looked at 288 profitable Fortune 500 companies. The report said that 26 of them—including Boeing, General Electric and Verizon—paid no US federal income tax in the five-year period. The group also said that 111 of the 288 companies paid no federal income tax in at least one of those five years.

That means US-based companies are also “depriving the US economy of billions in tax revenues,” just as McCain feared about the Swiss.

But let’s also remember that General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt—whose company gets away with evading US income taxes—still served as a White House economic adviser, even while GE closed a Wisconsin plant and laid off hundreds.

The fury being unleashed on the Swiss is based on some valid concerns. However, that same fury is strangely absent when it comes to major US corporations evading the federal income tax. But at least the money they save gives the companies more to spend on lobbying Congress or influencing elections.

Mark Anderson is a veteran journalist who divides his time between Texas and Michigan. Email him at

From The Progressive Populist, April 1, 2014

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