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Bankers blindsided by N.Y. Iran charges

NEW YORK, Aug. 11 (UPI) -- U.S. banking regulators said the global industry was growing worried about the fallout from accusations made by their counterparts with the State of New York.

Benjamin Lawsky's allegations this week that Britain's Standard Chartered took part in allegedly illegal transactions involving Iran have raised concerns that states could step into areas traditionally the sole jurisdiction of federal agencies, The New York Times said Saturday.

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Lawsky said Monday Standard Charter conspired with Iran to hide $250 billion in money transfers that went through Standard's New York branch for nearly a decade. The transfers were considered to be technically legal despite U.S. sanctions against Iran, sources told the newspaper.

The so-called U-turn transactions basically use U.S. subsidiaries of international banks as a transit point for transfers from one foreign entity to another. Banks currently look to Washington to determine whether the transactions are legal; however Lawsky's actions have disrupted that tradition and have bankers worried they could now be in the crosshairs of various state regulators as well.

One anonymous federal official told The Times Lawsky's charge "has created utter turmoil."

Standard Charter denied Lawsky's allegations of being in cahoots with Iran in a written statement and "strongly rejects the position and portrayal of facts" made by Lawsky, the head of the New York Department of Financial Services.

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The department has the authority to revoke a bank's charter.

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