Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action James Bond
It sounds like something from a conspiracy thriller novel; an obscure but ambitious bureaucrat tries to catch the attention of his xenophobic and anti – british bosses in the regime by pinning a sanction – busting terrorist money laundering wrap on a mighty global bank. Will he succeed thus destabilising the global banking system and ensuring the corrupt and self serving bankers who have his own nation’s political establishment in their pockets emerge stronger and more untouchable?
Benjamin Lawsky is the superintendent of the New York States Department of Financial Services. He was once chief of staff to New York state governor Andrew Cuomo, so he knows his way around politics and is well connected. He has taken on Standard Chartered, making as yet unsubstantiated allegations that the bank was involved in laundering $250 billion in oil revenues (nice round number that) for the ayatollahs of Tehran.
Lawsky branded the globally respected British bank a rogue institution and insisted that it explain these apparent violations of law” (interesting that he doesn’t seem sure whether they were violations or not) between 2001 to 2010. The bank has hit back hard, insisting that Lawsky not only based these charges on its own voluntary disclosures to the US authorities but also that he has got the law wrong.
We can safely leave that one to the lawyers but what is intriguing about this business is as Citybriefing has pointed out Superintendent Lawskys job description includes keeping New York on the cutting edge as the financial capital of the world. Could there be an agenda at play here? Could Lawsky be not just battling for truth and justice that goes without saying but also for Wall Street?
A bit of a pattern seems to be developing here. Three major British banks Barclays, HSBC and now Standard Chartered have fallen foul of US regulators in the space of a month. Coincidence? See above.
Some people have a very rose tinted view of how capitalism works. So what kind of bank thinks Tehran is more important than Wall Street?
Well, probably one that is seeking to maximise profit? What kind of bank launders money for Mexican drug dealers? What kind of bank illegally manipulates interest rates? What kind of bank bets small savers nest eggs on dodgy bundles of sub prime mortgage debt. And it is not just banks. What kind of company dumps contaminated waste into the sea or into the local river? What kind of company pays dairy fasrmers less than the production cost for their milk and gioves itself a 300% mark up?
What kind of company takes shortcuts that risk environmental catastrophe if things go wrong? What kind of company hacks into the mobile phones of murdered school girls? What kind of company stashes billions in tax havens to avoid having to pay a contribution to the society from which it benefits? What about arms manufacturers selling murderous weapons to brutal dictators?
Both the US and UK governments have done deals with the likes of Gaddafi, Saddam, the Saudis, the Israeli’s etc. They have backed military coups against democratically elected governments and provided them with the weapons and expertise to use against their own populations. The American’s are in no position to lecture anyone on breaking sanctions and dealing with dictators.
And we notice that no American regulator has so far tried to punish China for continuing to buy Iranian oil in contravention of American sanctions.