One of these days you'll read something here about a big international bank doing something wonderful for mankind. Sadly, today is not that day.
The news today is that New York's top banking cop, Ben Lawsky (his official title is Superintendent of Financial Services), is threatening to revoke the state banking license of Standard Chartered Plc, a global banking giant based in London, for allegedly helping Iranian banks by processing 60,000 secret transactions worth at least $250 billion, thereby earning fees worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Of course, fees are for catnip banks; the trouble here is that these transactions supposedly were aimed at evading U.S. sanctions, which is against the law.
In a legal order that pulls no punches, Lawsky calls the bank "a rogue institution," and says management was involved in a "staggering cover up." Here's a choice excerpt: "SCB?s actions left the U.S. financial system vulnerable to terrorists, weapons dealers, drug kingpins and corrupt regimes, and deprived law enforcement investigators of crucial information used to track all manner of criminal activity."
So Lawsky is demanding that the bank show cause why its New York license shouldn't be revoked and -- this is important -- why its U.S. dollar-clearing operations shouldn't be suspended. The loss of a New York license, as Reuters points out helpfully, "would be a devastating blow for a foreign bank, effectively cutting off direct access to the U.S. bank market."
The order mentions in a footnote, by the way, that Lawsky's agency has found evidence of similar schemes involving other sanctioned countries, including Libya, Myanmar and Sudan." So stay tuned.
Pictured above: The logo of Standard Chartered bank is seen at one of its branch in Hong Kong. (August 1, 2012)