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U.S. Treasury Confirms Probe of Standard Chartered

The U.S. Treasury Department said its Office of Foreign Assets Control is investigating Standard Chartered Plc for “potential Iran-related violations as well as a broader set of potential sanctions violations.”

OFAC, as the office is commonly referred to, “will continue to implement and enforce our sanctions vigorously,” Adam Szubin, the office’s director, said today in a letter to Second Permanent Secretary Tom Scholar at the U.K. Treasury. Szubin said OFAC will coordinate with “other federal and state agencies,” including the New York State Department of Financial Services. OFAC enforces economic and trade punishments.

Standard Chartered might be asked to pay as much as $700 million to resolve money-laundering allegations filed by the head of the New York agency after his department grew impatient with inaction by federal regulators, a person familiar with the case said.

Benjamin Lawsky, superintendent of the state’s financial services department, tried unsuccessfully a few months ago to get U.S. regulators to punish the London-based bank for conduct involving disguised Iranian money transfers, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the matter is confidential. The transfers have been under investigation by federal agencies for more than two years, according to Lawsky’s Aug. 6 order.

CEO Sands

Standard Chartered Chief Executive Officer Peter Sands criticized Lawsky’s claims.

“We reject the position and portrayal of facts by the Department of Financial Services,” Sands said on a conference call with reporters today, his first public comments since the findings were published. “It would be disproportionate and wholly inconsistent with the actions of other U.S. authorities in other sanctions matters” to revoke the bank’s New York license, he said.

Lawsky has threatened to strip the bank of its license to operate in the state, alleging it processed $250 billion of deals with Iranian banks subject to sanctions.

The OFAC director’s letter to the U.K. Treasury was obtained by Bloomberg News.

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