The Department of Justice has been demanding that Credit Suisse plead guilty to an “extensive and wide-ranging conspiracy” to help holders of U.S.-based accounts evade taxes. Yesterday, the bank complied, and will have to pay around $2.6 billion in fines.No one seems to be defending the bank’s conduct. The evidence points not only to a deliberate intention to break the law, but to a management-orchestrated cover-up. The Justice Department seems to have the right plan in place here: sanction the bank, take steps to ensure future compliance, but don’t roil the markets by doing things like taking away its business license. Criminal cases against senior staff are proceeding, and here it is important that the law be sustained. These highly-paid businesspeople abused a position of great trust out of greed. As long as the violations of law were clear and deliberate (not technical or resulting from a complicated web of fine print and tricky regulations which could ensnare the unwary), then the penalties in these cases should be painful and severe for those found guilty.It may seem odd to some that we recommend, on the one hand, treating the bank with some lenity by allowing it to stay open, but also, on the other hand, bringing down the full power of criminal law like a hammer on anyone who clearly and knowingly broke the law for gain. In both cases, this comes from what we see as a duty of the justice system to protect the common good from the consequences of crime. The potential that bank closures could set off a round of instability in the financial markets is real, and this would cause harm to many innocent people. That is a legitimate reason to go easy on the bank as a corporation, provided that adequate safeguards exist to prevent a recurrence of bad behavior. But letting guilty bankers get off lightly would also harm the innocent. It would encourage other bankers to disregard the law. Exemplary punishment of high-profile defendants in cases like this sends a signal to others in the industry, and therefore benefits the public good.All too often judicial discretion ends up piling long sentences onto poor and obscure criminals, while letting the rich, well connected and well lawyered off with a slap on the wrist. Justice would be better served, and the public better protected, if this tendency were reversed. Rich, well connected people in positions of great trust who still commit criminal acts deserve less consideration than the smaller fry.