Standard Chartered faces fresh fines in US, profit drops 20%

Written by Reuters | New York/London | Updated: Aug 7 2014, 08:27am hrs
Standard Chartered has warned it faces another fine from New York's financial regulator for problems in its anti-money laundering controls, piling more pressure on the Asia-focused bank and its bosses.

The London-based bank said on Wednesday problems in its surveillance system , part of its anti-money laundering systems and controls, were likely to result in a fine, remedial action and an extension of a two-year monitoring period.

The monitoring was imposed in 2012 after StanChart was fined $667 million by US regulators for breaking US sanctions by hiding transactions linked to Iran so they would not be detected, which rocked the bank and heralded a series of problems in the last two years.

Chief Executive Peter Sands said the latest issues, which were spotted by the New York regulator's monitor Ellen Zimiles, were related to computer surveillance faults and were less serious than those it previously had to contend with.

We do not believe the impact to be of the same scale as the very different issues the group faced two years ago, Sands told reporters on a conference call. He said the financial penalty should be less than the $340 million the bank paid to the New York regulator in 2012. It is likely to be more than $100 million, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters before the bank announced the problem.

StanChart is not alone in feeling the heat from U.S. authorities for breaking sanctions and for broader conduct mis-steps. European rivals

HSBC, Barclays and UBS have all been hit and BNP Paribas was fined a record $9 billion last month for breaching sanctions related to Sudan and Iran.

But the latest revelation still comes at a bad time for StanChart, two years to the day since New York regulator Benjamin Lawsky called it a rogue institution for the extent of its sanction busting.

Big losses in Korea, a slowdown in investment banking and the impact of tougher regulations have halted its run of 10 years of record earnings and some investors have called for change at the top.

The bank last month rejected reports it had stepped up succession plans for its Chairman John Peace and for Sands, who has been CEO for 7-1/2 years. It said its board was united behind the two in restoring the bank to profitable growth.

The computer problems relate to a failure to flag potential illegal activity. Banks' systems should spot possible problems and generate a suspicious activity report for the regulator. But Sands said a systems upgrade in 2007 did not strengthen the surveillance process as well as it should have done.

The transactions should have been flagged by the bank's computers because of concern that sanctioned parties could re-route transactions through high-risk countries or entities not subject to sanctions before entering the US financial system, the person familiar with the matter said.