James Moore: New York bus inspectors really mean business

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The Independent Online

Outlook First it was the banks, now it's the buses. Stagecoach is the latest British company to fall foul of American regulators.

Let's be clear here. When compared with laundering dirty cash for drug lords and dodgy regimes in the Middle East, Stagecoach's sins are pretty mild.

All it's done is set up a joint venture to seize control of the rather lucrative tour bus market in New York. You hop on, pay up and hop off.

It's the paying part that's getting everybody worked up, with the New York attorney general and the US Department of Justice saying that Stagecoach's joint venture has a vice-like grip on the market, which it has used to substantially raise fares.

This rather feeds through to a narrative that the Yanks are out to get our guys. There are those mega-fines that were handed out to HSBC and Standard Chartered over money laundering, the way BP quickly became British Petroleum when it spilled oil all over the Gulf Coast, and now this.

The special relationship isn't apparently very special when it comes to business.

But another way to look at it is that American regulators are simply doing their jobs. Why should they soft-soap UK companies that misbehave?

Stagecoach says the legal action it faces is unnecessary and it is confident a deal can be done. Its management might want to hop on the bus to HSBC if it thinks it can talk like that and secure a compromise.

The DoJ and the New York attorney general tend to play for keeps. Our authorities could learn a thing or two from them when it comes to the American companies playing fast and loose with all sorts of rules on this side of the pond.