Credit Suisse increases provision for U.S. tax deal

Thu Apr 3, 2014 7:58am EDT
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By Caroline Copley and Oliver Hirt

ZURICH (Reuters) - Credit Suisse has increased the funds it has set aside to settle a U.S. tax dispute and avoid prosecution for helping wealthy Americans hide cash from the taxman, raising the prospect it may be close to a settlement in the lengthy dispute.

Switzerland's second-biggest bank also said it had raised the pay of its chief executive by more than a quarter last year, despite not meeting all its performance targets and the hike in litigation costs which increased its fourth-quarter loss.

The bank set aside an extra 425 million Swiss francs ($480 million) to take its total provisions for tax and securities law matters in the United States to 895 million francs, it said in its annual report published on Thursday.

Credit Suisse was told by the U.S. Department of Justice it was under investigation in 2011. The bank made a 295 million franc provision that year, but many analysts believed that sum would not suffice.

"The final settlement has not yet been reached, but the bank feels comfortable about making a provision for the case that should be close to the final settlement amount," analyst Dirk Becker at brokerage Kepler Cheuvreux, who has a "buy" rating on the stock, said in a note. He said the provisions were less than had been expected by the market.

Another analyst, who asked not to be named, said the additional provision suggested a settlement looked more imminent. But a spokesman for the bank declined comment on whether the increase indicated it was close to resolving the dispute.

Credit Suisse had in February settled charges levied by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, admitting to wrongdoing and paying $196.5 million in fines also in relation to tax issues.

Switzerland's private banking model has been rattled to its core by the U.S. crackdown on tax evasion. Credit Suisse's crosstown rival UBS admitted to helping U.S. taxpayers evade taxes and paid a $780 million fine in 2009.   Continued...

The logo of Swiss bank Credit Suisse is seen in front of a branch office in Zurich November 21, 2013. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann