x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

StanChart expects $330m fine over claims it broke Iran sanctions

Standard Chartered expects to pay $330m to settle case with US regulators, on top of $340m it paid in the third quarter.

Standard Chartered said it expected talks with US Federal regulators to conclude shortly after the lender was accused of violating sanctions on Iran. Simon Dawson / Bloomberg
Standard Chartered said it expected talks with US Federal regulators to conclude shortly after the lender was accused of violating sanctions on Iran. Simon Dawson / Bloomberg

Standard Chartered expects to pay US$330 million (Dh1.1 billion) to settle claims from American regulators that it flouted sanctions against Iran.

The bank said it had expected to conclude negotiations with four authorities in the United States over allegations it violated US sanctions "very shortly". The authorities are the justice department, the Office of Foreign Assets Control, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the New York district attorney.

"The timing is not in our control. The amount we expect to pay is approximately $330m," it said in a statement, released yesterday.

The latest fine comes as the bank seeks to bring to a close controversy over its dealings with Iran.

In August, the bank agreed to pay New York's financial services department (DFS) $340m after it charged the bank with working with Iranian companies and banks for nearly a decade to hide nearly 60,000 transactions worth $250bn.

The US has spearheaded the drive against Iran with sanctions targeting its economy in response to Tehran's pursuit of a suspected nuclear weapons programme. Iran denies the accusations.

But even a second round of fines is unlikely to stop Standard Chartered from reporting a 10th consecutive year of record profits. Its focus on Asia for most of its business has helped the bank to weather crises in the global economy better than many of its western peers.

"Six hundred and seventy million dollars is a big number in total and one the bank could do without having to pay," said Gary Greenwood, a banking analyst at Shore Capital in the United Kingdom. "But for a bank that was expected to generate about $7.5bn of pre-tax profit in the current year, it is an amount they can readily absorb and investors were expecting it.

"The group is on course to deliver income growth in excess of expense growth in spite of the settlement," said Adam Chan, a senior analyst at CCB International in a note yesterday. "Balance sheet growth is holding strong as both loans and deposits are expected to grow by a high-single-digit rate year on year."

The DFS fine will cut pre-tax profit growth this year to a mid-single-digit rate from what otherwise would have been a double-digit increase, the bank said in a separate trading update yesterday.

The second fine will slim profits still further.

"Standard Chartered is on course to deliver another strong set of full year results for 2012," said Peter Sands, the group chief executive in the trading update.

"We continue to see significant opportunities across our markets in Asia, Africa and the Middle East."

The headwind from currency moves was decreasing, the update said. In October, the bank said revenue growth was being impacted by the strength of the US dollar against Asian currencies.

Several other global banks have also fallen foul of moves by US regulators to crack down on money laundering by drug cartels and terrorists.

Last month HSBC set aside a further $800m to cover potential fines relating to a US money-laundering investigation against it. It means HSBC's total provisions for the case now stand at $1.5bn. The bank is still negotiating with authorities but is expected to pay a much larger fine than Standard Chartered and could also face criminal action.

In June, ING Bank, a division of the Dutch financial services company ING Financial Services struck a $619m deal with the US Treasury department in response to allegations it broke sanctions against Iran, Libya and other countries.

In response to US investigations, Standard Chartered had previously mounted a vigorous defence of its banking record, disputing aspects of the regulator's allegations, saying it had identified just $14m of transactions that might have violated sanctions, which it attributed to clerical errors.

In addition to the fine in August, Standard Chartered also agreed to the regulator's demands to place a monitor at the bank's New York office for at least two years to evaluate its money-laundering controls.

Investors shrugged off news of the fine as the British bank's shares rose 0.8 per cent to £15 (Dh88.77) in morning trading.

tarnold@thenational.ae