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Standard Chartered Bank to suspend dollar clearing for high risk HK clients

The New York State Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) has issued an order requiring Standard Chartered Bank (SCB) to suspend dollar clearing through its New York Branch for high risk retail business clients at its Hong Kong subsidiary.

Under the terms of the order, which relates to SCB’s failures to remediate anti-money laundering compliance problems as required in the bank's 2012 settlement with NYDFS, SCB must also exit high-risk client relationships within certain business lines at its branches in the United Arab Emirates, not accept new dollar-clearing clients or accounts across its operations without prior approval from DFS and pay a USD300 million penalty, as well as take other remedial steps.
 
Benjamin M Lawsky, superintendent of financial services, says: "If a bank fails to live up to its commitments, there should be consequences. That is particularly true in an area as serious as anti-money-laundering compliance, which is vital to helping prevent terrorism and vile human rights abuses."
 
SCB's compliance remediation failures were uncovered by DFS' independent monitor, which the department installed at Standard Chartered as part of the 2012 agreement. The DFS monitor's review of Standard Chartered's transaction monitoring systems found that the bank failed to detect a large number of potentially high-risk transactions for further review. A significant amount of the potentially high-risk transactions the system has failed to detect originated from its Hong Kong subsidiary (SCB Hong Kong) and SCB's branches in the United Arab Emirates (SCB UAE), among others.
 
In connection with the implementation of its transaction monitoring system, SCB NY had created a rulebook with procedures to aid it in detecting high-risk transactions. The SCB monitor gathered information and attempted to test the SCB rulebook. After that review, the monitor determined that the SCB rulebook contained numerous errors and other problems, resulting in SCB's failure to identify high-risk transactions for further review. SCB failed to detect these problems because of a lack of adequate testing both before and after implementation of the transaction monitoring system, and failed to adequately audit the transaction monitoring system.
 
Under the order, Standard Chartered will take a number of steps, including:
 
• SCB NY will suspend its dollar clearing operations for high-risk retail business clients of SCB Hong Kong. Additionally, SCB has commenced a process of exiting high-risk small and medium business clients (SME) at SCB UAE. If exiting of the SME clients at SCB UAE is not completed within 90 days, SCB will suspend US Dollar clearing through SCB NY for those clients.
• SCB NY will not, without the prior approval of DFS – in consultation with the monitor – open a US Dollar demand deposit account for any customer who does not already have such an account with SCB NY.
• SCB will pay a USD300 million penalty.
• SCB will provide a comprehensive remediation action plan with appropriate deadlines and benchmarks.
• SCB will appoint a competent and responsible SCB executive who will report directly to the SCB CEO to oversee the remediation.
• SCB will extend the engagement of the monitor for two additional years.
• SCB will implement a series of enhanced due diligence and know-your-customer requirements – such as demanding greater information regarding the originators and beneficiaries of transactions – for its dollar clearing operations.

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