James Moore: After US attack on City, maybe our regulators should target Wall Street

Outlook Oh dear. It seems America's financial cops have swooped on another British bank, although you won't see many Team GB tops at Standard Chartered's HQ if its repeated threats to hop it for sunnier, less regulated, climes are anything to go by.

Allegations the bank cocked a snook at US sanctions in pursuit of millions of dollars, pounds, dinars, whatevers in fees from some decidedly unpleasant parts of the world (Myanmar, Sudan, Iran) have been greeted across the Pond with the sort of glee usually reserved for Michael Phelps' performances in the pool.

The City's cheerleaders are going to wish StanChart had fled these shores when chief executive Peter Sands last threw a hissy fit about British regulators curtailing his plans for his pals' bonuses.

Because, despite its relationship with its home country being lukewarm at best, it is as British as Jessica Ennis in American eyes today. It has conveniently confirmed their view of London's financial centre as a pirate's paradise, even if its sins were committed Stateside.

Critics from US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner downwards can only be egged on by the language used in the devastating report by the New York State Department of Financial Services. The bank has left the good old US of A vulnerable to "drug kingpins, weapons dealers and corrupt regimes".

These guys clearly wish they were swinging into its offices armed to the teeth with the theme from CSI blaring out of nearby loudspeakers. Well, we all like a bit of Hollywood.

Let's be clear here. If even half of what the report alleges is true, StanChart has been about as stupid as it's possible to be. "You f***ing Americans. Who are you to tell us, the rest of the world, that we're not going to deal with Iranians?" its group executive director (another banker of very little brain) is alleged to have said. The people who can shut your US office down, that's who. StanChart has long portrayed itself as different to the rest of the UK banking industry, with its enviable financial strength, leading positions in most of the world's best growth economies, and profits throughout the financial crisis.

But it isn't. The "world's best bank" has succumbed to the same hubris that has infected the rest of the industry like a bad case of winter vomiting. The sort of thing that allowed Barclays traders to try fixing Libor interest rates: Look, our investment bank is a driver of economic growth. Or allowed HSBC to deal with Mexican drug lords: If it hits profit targets who cares about compliance?

Or let JPMorgan give its traders a licence to lose billions, while throwing pots of lobbying money at derailing regulatory reform. Or permitted a Goldman Sachs trader to construct a portfolio of derivatives on the advice of a hedge fund that was betting against them.

Of course, the latter two are American banks, and Barclays has been dominated by Americans for a long time. As for the bonus culture that was so instrumental in the genesis of so many of these scandals? You've guessed it: Made in America.

In reality, these are all transatlantic scandals which require transatlantic solutions. But Mr Geithner and friends would much rather puff out their chests and slap London around.

While the US has been rather good at jailing those involved in white-collar crime (much better than we have), there haven't many bankers in orange jumpsuits making perp walks from Wall Street to Rikers Island. Should we now raise the question about who exactly would benefit the most from London's financial centre being brought down a peg or two? This shouldn't read like an exoneration of Standard Chartered or what it was up to. But it's naive to think Wall Street has all of a sudden become an example of the way things should be done.

Come to think of it, someone might like to ask what's going on in its dark corners while Britain's American critics are joining hands to sing "London's burning"? Perhaps Martin Wheatley and his new Financial Conduct Authority might like to make a name for themselves by taking a look.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Are you passionate about sale...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Developer (Trainee) - City, London

£25000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A large financial services company...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Assistant - Financial Services Sector - London

£20400 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and highly reputable organisat...

Recruitment Genius: Financial Services Graduate Training Scheme

£20000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are a successful and establ...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future
Berlusconi's world of sleaze: The astonishing lifestyle once enjoyed by Italy's former PM

Berlusconi's world of sleaze

The astonishing lifestyle once enjoyed by Italy's former PM
Disney plans galactic domination with endless Star Wars spin-offs

Disney plans galactic domination with endless Star Wars spin-offs

Films and theme parks are just the beginning. Disney believes its control of the now decades-old franchise can bring in merchandise and marketing millions for years to come
Could the golden age of the gaming arcade ever be revived in the era of the Xbox?

Could gaming arcades be revived?

The days when coin-ops were the only way to play the latest video games are gone. But a small band of enthusiasts are keeping the button-pushing dream alive
Edinburgh Fringe 2015: The 'tampon tax' has inspired a new wave of female comedians to reclaim period jokes

Heard the one about menstruation?

Yes, if you have been at the Fringe, where period pieces are taking centre stage