Business | Banking

UK bank faces more challenges

Standard Chartered agrees to pay $340m to new york regulator

  • Reuters And Bloomberg
  • Published: 17:49 August 15, 2012
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit: EPA
  • Standard Chartered’s chief executive Peter Sands. The UK bank has agreed to pay $340 million to the New York top banking regulator over allegations of transactions with Iran.

London: Standard Chartered is pursuing a collective settlement with other US authorities after speedily agreeing to pay $340 million (Dh1.25 billion) to New York’s financial regulator, who broke ranks with early revelations that the bank hid banned Iranian transactions.

Chief Executive Peter Sands, who cut short his holiday in Canada last week to deal with the affair, remains in the United States as the bank continues talks with other agencies to agree a comprehensive deal that removes lingering uncertainty.

“Negotiations are going on between the other agencies, and we are talking to them. It is safe to assume there will now be a collective agreement,” the spokesman said, declining to put a timeframe on the process.

Standard Chartered Plc could pay as much as $1 billion in fines as it settles with other regulators following its agreement with the New York Department of Financial Services, according to Simon Morris, a regulatory lawyer at CMS Cameron McKenna in London.

“The implication for Standard Chartered is they have a truce on one battle but four more to fight” with their other regulators, he said in an interview with Bloomberg Television today. For their total fine, “you might multiply by three or four; you might see $1 billion potentially.”

Shares in Standard Chartered were up 4.2 per cent at 1,427 pence at 0945 GMT, still 9 per cent below their value prior to accusations being made against the bank on August 6 by New York’s Financial Services Superintendent Benjamin Lawsky.

Lawsky said Standard Chartered had hidden Iran-linked transactions with a total value of $250 billion and called it a “rogue institution” for breaking US sanctions.

That prompted a robust defence from Sands against what he called Lawsky’s “disproportionate” allegations, but the bank’s shares lost over 30 per cent of their value in 24 hours, ramping up the pressure on Standard Chartered to strike a deal.

“I think Standard Chartered wanted to settle because the share price had become destabilised,” said one of the bank’s 30 biggest investors. “Prior to that, I think they believed they had good legal grounds to resist a settlement of say under $200 million on the basis of the history of these cases.”

The affair also took on a political dimension, with some British members of parliament suggesting it was part of a US effort to undermine London as a financial centre.

Lawsky drew criticism from other regulators for jumping ahead of a two-year probe into the bank by the US Treasury, the Federal Reserve, the Justice Department and New York prosecutors.

Britain’s finance minister George Osborne made a series of phone calls to his US counterpart last week expressing concern at the way details of the case came out.

Sands flew to New York on Sunday to take personal control of the negotiations ahead of a planned hearing with New York on Wednesday which has now been adjourned pending formal completion of the settlement.

Monday’s settlement offered some relief to shareholders, but investors were quick to point out that Standard Chartered still had some way to go before closing the most regrettable chapter in its history.

“Don’t forget about the other half of the fine - they haven’t settled with the DoJ/OFAC yet,” another of the bank’s biggest 30 investors told Reuters, estimating a second financial hit of around the same size.

Shareholders remain broadly supportive of Sands.

“I don’t think Peter Sands’s reputation has been damaged much by the affair. The fact that his robust defence doesn’t quite gel with the size of the fine would be the only real concern,” said one of the bank’s biggest 40 shareholders.

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