Wednesday, October 29, 2014

I have often said -- I suspect that, in number at least, most readers would say too often -- that Swiss banks are, well, whatever the word was (it changed from time to time, but it was not a term of endearment).  Well, Swiss banks are not alone.  See Ben Protess and Jessica Silver-Greenberg, Prosecutors Wrestling With Wall Street’s Repeat Offenders (NYT DealBook 10/29/14), here.  And U.S. financial institutions also misbehave big-time.  Some of the senior management of all of them or, given prosecution limitations and priorities, a representative sampling of them, should go to jail.  In the U.S.  As perhaps Raoul Weil will, mitigated perhaps by his serving up higher level bank management.

Here are some excerpts:
Prosecutors in Washington and Manhattan have reopened an investigation into Standard Chartered, the big British bank that reached a settlement in 2012 over accusations that it funneled billions of dollars for Iran and other nations blacklisted by the United States, according to the lawyers briefed on the cases. The prosecutors  are questioning whether Standard Chartered, which has a large operation in New York, failed to disclose the extent of its wrongdoing to the government, imperiling the bank’s earlier settlement.
New York State’s banking regulator is also taking a fresh look at old cases, reopening a 2013 settlement with the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ over accusations that the bank’s New York branch did business with Iran, according to the lawyers who were not authorized to speak publicly. The regulator, Benjamin M. Lawsky, the lawyers said, is negotiating a new settlement deal with the bank that, if finalized, would involve a penalty larger than the $250 million it paid last year. Mr. Lawsky suspects that the bank initially played down the scope of its wrongdoing. 
PricewaterhouseCoopers, the influential consulting firm that advised the Japanese bank on that case, is also under investigation itself, according to the lawyers briefed on the matter. The Manhattan district attorney’s office is examining whether the firm watered down a report about the bank’s dealings with Iran before it was sent to government investigators. 
Those developments — which have not been previously reported — are part of a broader revisiting of settlements with some of the world’s biggest banks, an effort that has focused on foreign banks but could eventually spread to American institutions.
As reported earlier by The New York Times, prosecutors are also threatening to tear up deals with banks like Barclays and UBS that were accused of manipulating interest rates, pointing to evidence that the same banks also manipulated foreign currencies, a violation of the interest rate settlements. The prosecutors and banks have agreed to extend probationary periods that would have otherwise expired this year. 
The reopening of these cases represents a shift for the government, the first acknowledgement that prosecutors are coming to terms with the limitations of how they punish bank misdeeds. Typically, when banks have repeatedly run afoul of the law, they have returned to business as usual with little or no additional penalty — a stark contrast to how prosecutors mete out justice for the average criminal. 
* * * * 
The decision to revisit the cases also shines a spotlight on consulting firms that helped shape the original settlements. When determining the extent of wrongdoing at a bank, the government often relies on assessments from consultants that are hand-picked and paid by the same bank.
Read on in the linked article.  It is not a pretty sight.

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