Standard Chartered to pay $1.1B Iran sanctions settlement

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A man walks into a branch of Standard Chartered. PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP

Standard Chartered will pay $1.1 billion to settle charges it processed transactions that violated US sanctions on Iran and flouted anti-money laundering requirements, US and British regulators announced on Tuesday.

The British bank moved through hundreds of millions of dollars of US transactions from Iran and other sanctioned countries, said US Treasury officials, who were joined in the action by other federal and state agencies.

 

Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) – which worked with the US bodies – punished the bank for doing little to detect and counter the laundering of funds that may have come from crimes or which could have been used to finance terrorism.

“Standard Chartered’s oversight of its financial crime controls was narrow, slow and reactive,” said FCA Enforcement and Market Oversight director Mark Steward, who said the fine would have been “even higher” if the bank had not cooperated with the probes.

The British portion of the fine amounted to £102.2 million ($133.7 million).

A statement from the bank described the violations as “historical”, adding that the “vast majority” of the problems predated 2012 and that none occurred since 2014.

“The circumstances that led to today’s resolutions are completely unacceptable and not representative of the Standard Chartered I am proud to lead today,” said Standard Chartered Group CEO Bill Winters.

“Fighting financial crime is central to what we do and who we are – we do not tolerate misconduct or lax controls and we will continue to root out any issues that threaten the trust we have built over more than 160 years.”

 

The FCA listed a number of flagrant instances in which the bank’s money laundering controls fell short.

In one case, the Dubai branch opened an account for a customer with three million UAE dirham ($815,000) in cash, apparently without investigating the source of the funds.

The bank also did not sufficiently question a customer who exported a commercial product with potential military application to 75 countries, including two that had armed conflicts or where conflict was likely, the FCA said.

The penalties also cover some $600 million in US transactions from 2008 to 2014 that originated at Standard Chartered’s London and Dubai offices and went through its US branch, the New York State Department of Financial Services said in a statement.

US regulators said a majority of the problem transactions violated US sanctions on Iran, with a smaller number involving Syria, Sudan, Cuba and Myanmar.

The US Department of Treasury said the agreement requires the bank to conduct regular risk assessments and provide ongoing sanctions compliance training.

Other US bodies joining the agreement included the Federal Reserve and the Department of Justice, which extended a previously-written deferred prosecution agreement with the bank for two years.

“Global financial institutions serve as the first line of defence against money laundering and the financing of terrorist activities and those that fail to foster a strong compliance culture will be held accountable,” said Linda Lacewell, acting superintendent of the New York agency.