These fines for HSBC, Standard Chartered and LLoyds prove there's one law for US banks, another for Europe's

There is a suspicion that the swingeing fines imposed on foreign banks are the result of political imperative

Share

American cops and dark-suited regulators are shaking down Western banks and companies with such ease that they must be thinking Christmas has come early. The list of institutions which this week admitted their crimes and reached a financial settlement with US authorities includes some of Europe’s finest: Standard Chartered (fined $327m for sanctions-busting), HSBC (fined $1.9bn for money-laundering and sanctions-busting), Lloyds Bank ($350m for sanctions-busting), and Siemens ($800m for corruption).

But in a globalised banking economy, where you might expect all big banks to be linked in criminal enterprises (as well as legitimate ones, of course), there are some notable absentees: American banks. This omission is all the more surprising because American banks have been taken to task in recent years for activities quite as nefarious as these other institutions.

Citibank for example, was investigated with the same blunt instrument by the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations as was HSBC. The Committee produced a very large report on the collusion between the American bank and politicians like the late president Sani Abacha of Nigeria, the late President Bongo of Gabon, the late Carlos Salinas of Mexico and today’s president of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari. This documented how the bank enabled each of these politicians to hide offshore money, running into many millions. This money had been obtained corruptly.

The bank’s confession to its compliance failings was delivered by its chairman under a humiliating grilling from the Senate committee. It was televised and he resigned shortly after. But the buck stopped there. Similar embarrassment was heaped on Bank of New York, another one of America’s finest, which was found to have been laundering Russian money.

American regulators have no hesitation about picking the pockets of overseas players on Wall Street

American banks’ absence from the top echelons of the fining rota can be explained in a number of ways. The first touches on the fining process itself. The size of the fine is arrived at as a result of a negotiation between lawyers acting for the US government and the bank itself. One might suspect that US banks better understand the legalistic processes and can manipulate them to their advantage.

But a trend that will worry European banks active in America is the suspicion that the authorities imposing these swingeing fines are responding to a political imperative. They are saying that if you are a foreign bank and you want to do business in America, there is a heavy cost. It bears no relation to offences and charges. It is all to do with growing protectionism among American regulators, who have no hesitation about picking the pockets of overseas players on Wall Street, while leaving their own transgressors largely untouched.

Nick Kochan is the author of books on economic crime including ‘Corruption: The New Corporate Challenge’

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: When is a baroness not a baroness? Titles still cause confusion

Guy Keleny
 

CPAC 2015: What I learnt from the US — and what the US could learn from Ukip

Nigel Farage
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower