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US watchdog doubts Standard Chartered's 'core values'
by Staff Writers
Hong Kong (AFP) Aug 7, 2012

Standard Chartered, the latest bank accused by the United States of illicit dealings with Iran, is regarded as a conservative specialist in emerging markets from Asia to Africa.

The London-based global giant dodged the worst of the 2008 meltdown and claims its core values give it an edge over its rivals, at a time when the industry has been shaken by allegations of money laundering to rate-rigging.

Justin Harper, market strategist for financial services firm IG Markets in Singapore, said it was one of the "good guys in the banking industry".

"There aren't many left but I think Standard Chartered is one of the few that are not taking big risks with people's money," he told AFP on Tuesday, a day after US authorities labelled it a "rogue bank".

The New York Department of Financial Services accused the firm of hiding $250 billion in transactions with Iranian banks in violation of US sanctions, and threatened to tear up its licence to operate in the state.

Standard Chartered said it "strongly" rejects the allegations.

Founded in 1969 from the merger of two banks, Standard Chartered says more than 90 percent of its income and profits come from Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Its shares trade in London, Hong Kong and Mumbai, while its 87,000 employees are scattered across more than 70 countries.

The bank last week posted first-half net profit of $2.81 billion, its 10th consecutive first-half profit record.

Among other things, it attributed the result to a "highly liquid and a well diversified balance sheet with continued momentum and limited exposure to problem asset classes".

In a statement accompanying the results, chief executive Peter Sands lauded the bank's "culture and values" as a source of strength over its competitors.

"We are selective and turn things down that we don't understand, or don't like the look of," he said.

"As a source of competitive advantage, as the ultimate protection against risk, our culture and values are our first and last line of defence."

Chairman Sir John Peace acknowledged that "issues have surfaced around governance and behaviour in banking", but he said Standard Chartered shone out as a model of responsibility.

"At Standard Chartered, we believe it is not just about what we do, but how we do it. Our culture and values continue to be a source of strength and a competitive advantage," he said.

"Strong corporate governance and an obsession with the basics of banking remain key areas of focus for our board."

Harper said the 43-year-old lender had a "good reputation" which would be "tarnished by these accusations whether they prove accurate or not".

"In the short term it will do damage and we will probably see its share prices came off, but I think in the long-term it will ride out of this storm and continue its strong growth," he said.

"The ball is now in the court of New York's regulators."


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