How serious is the trouble facing Standard Chartered – the British bank accused by New York regulators of breaking US sanctions over money transfers from Iran?
The bank – which denies most of the allegations – could lose its licence to operate in New York, a crippling blow.
Standard Chartered has expressed shock the state regulator went public while it was still working with other US law enforcement agencies
Some in the financial community are not convinced that the bank will it lose its licence.
James Bevan, of CCLA Investment Management, said: “At the moment I think the market’s view is that there is far more likely to be a fine. Indeed, it is unlikely we will see any real clarity until the 15th of August when Standard Chartered meets with the New York authority.”
Reportedly the New York State Department of Financial Services was angered by slow progress in the case and Standard Chartered’s attitude, which was illustrated by an alleged profane rant by one of the bank’s executives in 2006 against Americans telling the rest of the world not to deal with Iranians.
The New York regulator Benjamin Lawsky said that demonstrated the bank’s “obvious contempt” for US banking regulations.
On Wednesday Standard Chartered won some help from Britain’s central bank governor Mervyn King.
He said the various US regulators should coordinate their action and publish findings only when investigations are complete.
According to Reuters sources familiar with the matter have said that Lawsky had angered officials at the US Treasury Department and Federal Reserve by going it alone.
In view of recent events, some in the UK banking sector have expressed worries this is part of a concerted US effort to undermine London as a financial centre.
They point to the Barclays LIBOR interest rate-manipulating probe and a US Senate panel report that criticised HSBC over suspect transactions.
A British executive at an institution that ranks among the top 25 shareholders in Standard Chartered claimed politics was motivating US officials.
“Are we starting to see an anti-London bias in US regulatory activities?” the executive asked. “Oh yes. Is there any subtle form of banking sector protectionism going on? Yes.”