StanChart CEO takes charge of Iran probe talks

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 14, 2012 4:45 AM
StanChart CEO takes charge of Iran probe talks

By Matt Scuffham and Karen Freifeld

LONDON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Standard Chartered's Chief Executive Peter Sands has flown to New York to take personal control of the bank's attempts to reach a settlement with U.S. regulators over allegations it hid transactions involving Iran.

Sands is also ready to attend a hearing set for Wednesday at which the London-based bank has been told by the New York banking regulator that it must demonstrate why its state banking license should not be revoked over the transactions.

A Standard Chartered spokesman said on Tuesday the bank was waiting to hear from New York regulator, the Department of Financial Services (DFS), what form the hearing will take. The DFS has released no details of how the session will be conducted.

"Peter is happy to go if that's appropriate," a Standard Chartered spokesman said.

Sands will work with the bank's lawyers, who are attempting to negotiate a settlement over the issue with U.S. authorities, the spokesman said.

Last week, state Financial Services Superintendent Benjamin Lawsky said the bank hid Iran-linked transactions with a total value of $250 billion. Lawsky called Standard Chartered a "rogue institution" for breaking U.S. sanctions against Iran.

Sands had to cut his vacation short when details of the New York regulator's allegations emerged.

He denied the allegations and said the total amount that failed to adhere to the sanctions was less than $14 million. He also said he was taken by "complete surprise" by the ferocity of Lawsky's attack, which he described as "disproportionate".

The stakes for Standard Chartered are high, given that the loss of its state banking license would effectively cut it off from direct access to the U.S. bank market. Most of Standard Chartered's business is in Asia and the Middle East.

The DFS has declined to comment on the negotiations.

A person familiar with the situation, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Lawsky was seeking a settlement of about $350 million. Another person with knowledge of the situation said the figure had dropped to $250 million.

Shares in Standard Chartered were up 5.8 percent at 271.6 pence at 0850 GMT on hopes of a resolution.

(Editing by Alexander Smith and Will Waterman)