Japan's financial regulators today handed Credit Suisse Group the harshest penalty ever given to a foreign firm, revoking the banking license of its derivatives unit for helping Japanese companies conceal trading losses and bad loans and for obstructing an investigation.
They gave out lesser punishments to four other Credit Suisse units in Japan and to Kokusai Asset Management Co. Ltd.
After cracking down on Japanese banks for poor disclosure practices, the regulators entrusted with cleaning up Japan's financial mess turned their attention to the Swiss bank about six months ago. Credit Suisse had a reputation for aggressive trading practices, and its name had turned up in the accounts of a number of major failed banks.
The spotlight alarmed the fast-growing foreign financial sector, which some Japanese analysts claimed was getting kid-glove treatment. Others even saw the investigation as giving foreigners a taste of their own medicine after Daiwa Bank was forced to quit its U.S. operations in a 1995 bond-trading scandal.
"In deciding on our actions, we did not give any thought to whether or not it was a foreign institution and we tried to be neutral to the best of our ability," said Hakuo Yanagisawa, head of the Financial Reconstruction Commission.
But Credit Suisse clearly saw itself as a scapegoat and issued a statement saying it believes that "the sanction is disproportionate to the criticized conduct."
Credit Suisse had apologized and fired seven employees for hampering the investigation. It said it made no effort to hide its derivative transactions, which they said were not illegal.
Some foreign analysts said the high-profile case means Japanese regulators are now starting to adopt global standards for the behavior of their financial institutions.