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Standard Chartered: Friends Like This, Who Needs Enemies

Posted by Larry Doyle on August 7, 2012 9:07 AM |

Dealing with terrorists, weapons dealers, drug lords, and corrupt regimes would all seem to take a back seat to the pursuit of profit and revenue at the UK-based Standard Chartered Bank.

In what has to be a new low in terms of financial intermediation, the crowd at Standard Chartered stands accused this morning by the New York State Department of Financial Services of being a rogue institution.

In what might seem to be a potential script for a Harrison Ford thriller but is regrettably all too real, the Financial Times hits Standard Chartered hard in reporting, StanChart Shares Hit Over Iran Probe,

Shares in Standard Chartered plunged nearly 25 per cent on Tuesday after the New York State financial regulator accused the UK bank of hiding $250bn of transactions with the Iranian government. 

The New York state Department of Financial Service claimed on Monday that the bank had concealed about 60,000 transactions with Iranian clients from US regulators, violating sanctions against the Iranian government. It labelled the UK bank a “rogue institution”.

The bank’s shares lost almost a quarter of their value on fears that the scandal would cost the bank its licence and US clearing rights, even though many analysts considered such an outcome unlikely.

While representatives of Standard Chartered mount a public defense of their operation, this financial intrigue might dwarf the scandalous behaviors of its UK brethren at Barclays Bank and HSBC. Those scandals are not exactly small. Whatever happened to the world of genteel and refined British banking?

In addition to taking Standard Chartered over the coals, let’s also put Deloitte and Touche in our target scope as this consultant is alleged to have provided unlawful access to reviews which aided and abetted the bank in withholding information from regulators.

What did one unnamed representative at Standard Chartered allegedly have to say about doing business with Iran in violation of longstanding American sanctions?

“You f—ing Americans. Who are you to tell us, the rest of the world, that we’re not going to deal with Iranians?”

Is that right? Friends like these, who needs enemies.

If the US cares to have any credibility in the world of international trade and finance, these charges against Standard Chartered will receive the most aggressive and serious review possible. Will that happen? Do not count on it. I am not so sure the laundering charges primarily against Wachovia received the proper attention and regulation, so perhaps other institutions including Standard Chartered, took that as a cue that the pursuit of revenue in international banking takes priority over dealing with the unsavory characters involved with drug trafficking and terrorist regimes.

Oh what a tangled web they weave. Will we ever learn the truth?

Larry Doyle

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I have no affiliation or business interest with any entity referenced in this commentary. The opinions expressed are my own. I am a proponent of real transparency within our markets so that investor confidence and investor protection can be achieved.

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