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Standard Chartered settles inquiry of Iran transactions

British bank will pay $340 million to end an investigation by a New York agency.

August 15, 2012|Andrew Tangel

NEW YORK — British banking giant Standard Chartered has agreed to fork over $340 million to settle an investigation by New York state regulators.

New York's Department of Financial Services announced the settlement, which includes an agreement that the bank's transactions with Iranian clients in question totaled at least $250 billion.

Under the settlement, for at least two years Standard Chartered will install a monitor to keep tabs on the bank's efforts to root out money laundering. The DFS will also install examiners at the bank.

The $340-million settlement was the latest result of a string of costly government actions involving big British banks. Last month, HSBC revealed it had set aside $700 million for fines related to long-running investigations into money laundering.

Earlier this year, Barclays agreed to pay $450 million in fines to British and American regulators and law enforcement to settle charges that it manipulated key interest rates, including the London Inter-Bank Offered Rate, or Libor.

The DFS, headed by Benjamin Lawsky, reportedly roiled other regulators looking into Standard Chartered by filing an order against the bank last week. The bank has said it has been working with the Departments of Justice and Treasury, the Federal Reserve and the New York County District Attorney's Office.

In announcing the settlement Tuesday, Lawsky said in a statement: "We will continue to work with our federal and state partners on this matter."

Standard Chartered stood accused of concealing thousands of prohibited transactions with Iran. U.S. government rules tightly restrict transactions with countries such as Sudan and North Korea to keep money from flowing to terrorists, drug cartels or hostile regimes.

The bank's New York license was on the line, but a hearing set for Wednesday was canceled.

The Department of Financial Services' order cited a bank executive's alleged colorful statement on the topic of American sanctions that restrict financial transactions.

"You ... Americans," the DFS order quoted one executive saying. "Who are you to tell us, the rest of the world, that we're not going to deal with Iranians."

The DFS settlement is a big win for a new agency that's less than a year old. New York, which has long been an aggressive state regulator of Wall Street, created the department in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis by abolishing state banking and insurance regulators and transferring their power to the DFS in October 2011.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo lauded the settlement in a statement. Lawsky was the former top lieutenant for Cuomo when he was attorney general.

"This state and nation are still paying the price for a failed regulatory system, and that must not happen again," Cuomo said.

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andrew.tangel@latimes.com

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