US prosecutors are preparing criminal charges against Credit Suisse and BNP Paribas, in the hopes of securing the first guilty plea from a big bank since 1989—and stemming criticism that the banks are too powerful to prosecute, the New York Times reports. Credit Suisse is suspected of providing a tax haven for Americans, while BNP has allegedly done business with countries the US has blacklisted, like Sudan. The moves would make good on New York US Attorney Preet Bharara's recent promise that "a significant financial institution" would soon be charged, Bloomberg points out.
Lawmakers have been pressuring prosecutors over their practice of negotiating "deferred prosecution" and "non-prosecution" agreements with banks. Regulators often halt prosecutions by warning that charging the banks might force them to revoke their charters, effectively killing the banks and damaging the economy. But prosecutors have met with regulators and emerged reassured; New York's top financial regulator, for instance, said he'd impose penalties on BNP, including forcing it to fire employees, claw back pay, and temporarily stop transferring money through New York, but that he wouldn't revoke its charter. (Read more Credit Suisse stories.)