LONDON - Standard Chartered shares rebounded Wednesday, recouping some of the previous day’s sharp losses in the wake of US regulators accusing the bank of hiding $250 billion (S$311 billion) in transactions with Iran.
Standard Chartered chief executive Peter Sands meanwhile hit back at claims that the London-headquartered lender housed a rogue institution that hid transactions worth the equivalent of 202 billion euros with Iranian banks.
“There are a lot of matters that we don’t recognize, we don’t understand and are factually inaccurate,” Sands told a conference call, after the New York Department of Financial Services (DFS) on Monday made the allegations.
Sands said the bank’s profit made from the transactions amounted to “tens of millions” of dollars, not hundreds of millions as the regulator had suggested.
He added that the episode was “clearly very damaging, it would be unrealistic to pretend otherwise.”
The bank’s share price rallied 7.08 percent to close up 1,315.5 pence on London’s FTSE 100 index of top companies, which ended flat.
The stock had slumped 16.8 percent Tuesday – slashing the bank’s value by almost £6.0 billion ($9.4 billion, 7.6 billion euros) in just one day.
Standard, which earns 90 percent of its profits from Africa, Asia and the Middle East combined, denied earlier in the week that it had hid vast amounts of money with Iranian banks for almost a decade in violation of US sanctions.
The DFS accuses the bank of systematically disguising foreign exchange deals with Iran that potentially opened the US banking system to terrorists and criminals.
The transactions allegedly mainly involved US dollar transfers for state-owned Iranian banks, including the central bank, that fell under US controls aimed at undermining Tehran’s alleged nuclear weapons programme.
According to The New York Times on Wednesday, US federal regulators were surprised by the DFS move.
The newspaper said the allegations were not endorsed by the US Justice Department, the Federal Reserve or the US Treasury.
The Standard Chartered scandal comes at a torrid time for Britain’s banking sector, just weeks after US lawmakers accused HSBC of failing to apply anti-laundering rules, thereby benefiting Iran, terrorists and drug dealers.
In addition, the Libor rate-rigging affair has rocked Barclays bank and threatens to spread to other lenders around the world.
Barclays was fined £290 million by British and US regulators in June, after admitting that it attempted to manipulate the Libor and Euribor interbank interest rates between 2005 and 2009.
Bank of England governor Mervyn King on Wednesday argued that the Standard Chartered and Libor affairs were not the same owing to the way in which regulators had gone about pursuing the matters.
“It is important for people to distinguish between those different episodes,” the central bank boss said.
“In the Libor one, all the regulators involved – whether being in the US or the UK – have produced coordinated publications of reports, which came out after the investigation was completed and they have made their judgement.
“That’s very different from what’s happened in the Standard Chartered case, where one regulator (the New York State Department of Financial Services) but not the others has gone public while the investigation is still going on.”
– Dow Jones Newswires contributed to this article – burs-bcp/rl