(Reuters) – The Treasury Department and Federal Reserve were blindsided and angered by New York’s banking regulator’s decision to launch an explosive attack on Standard Chartered Plc over $250 billion in alleged money laundering transactions tied to Iran, sources familiar with the situation said.
By going it alone through the order he issued on Monday, Benjamin Lawsky, head of the recently created New York State Department of Financial Services, also complicates talks between the Treasury and London-based Standard Chartered to settle claims over the transactions, several of the sources said.
What’s complicated here? The facts appear to show that the bank didn’t give a damn about what the United States law said or what regulators thought. That’s what the email context appears to demonstrate.
Treasury and the US Government in general have a long history of looking the other way and simply imposing tiny fines and hand-slaps for conduct that would land any other entity in front of a court on felony charges. Just try doing business with blacklisted Iranian firms yourself and see how fast you get locked up!
The law either applies to everyone or it is a joke. We have myriad examples over the last few years of “handslap” sorts of fines imposed for conduct that were you or I to engage in it would earn us a long and very unpleasant date with Bubba in a nice gray cell.
A spokesperson for the Federal Reserve said it had been working closely with various prosecutorial offices on matters involving Iran and other sanctioned entities, but could not comment on ongoing investigations.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the government takes alleged violations of sanctions “extremely seriously” and the Treasury remains in close contact with federal and state authorities on the matter. The Treasury declined to add to that comment.
Obama’s administration, like Bush’s before him, have done exactly nothing about all the various and blatantly apparent violations of the law by financial institutions. There are only two sanctions that work when it comes to corporations — you either jail the people involved (literally) or you revoke or suspend corporate charters. Any sort of monetary penalty is ineffective because it is just passed through to customers; this is particularly true when the firm involved is considered “essential” in some way — such as a bank or pharmaceutical company.
Proof that these “fines” do not deter behavior comes in the fact that despite consent decrees and agreements not to offend again virtually all of these firms are in fact recidivists; worse is that most are three-time losers which for ordinary people exposes them to “three strikes” laws that imprison them for life.
New York is right and the US Government and Fed are both not only wrong, they’re willing co-conspirators.