StanChart: what's to stop a regulatory body going rogue?

Still possible that the New York DFS allegations are untrue.

Whether true or not, the New York Department of Financial Service's accusations have caused a whole lot of trouble for Standard Chartered, but the key point is that they still may not be true.

The accusations are fairly detailed, but are also unbacked by facts, highly unusual for this sort of announcement. The regulatory body will have to prove their allegations are true on August 15, but unfortunately for Stan Chart the markets operate on a "no smoke without fire" basis.

The company's shares suffered their steepest one-day decline in several decades on Tuesday, dropping more than 16 per cent.The shares have bounced back slightly since then, but the damage has been done.

“This has been incredibly damaging,” analysts at Charles Stanley confirmed in a note. “It is ruining all the good work that [has been] done in recent years.”

If the accusations do turn out not to be true, StanChart is still left in pieces. How are regulatory authorities allowed to wreak this sort of havoc? (British MPs have already accused the New York DFS of a motivated attack, in pursuit of an anti-city agenda.)

As a spokesperson for the British Banking Authority said:

"There really isn't anything that stops a regulatory authority from making accusations."

Perhaps reassuringly, every part of this incident points to something quite unusual on the part of the New York DFS. Firstly the announcement itself completely sidesteps normal procedure. Most cases of this kind would first be compiled in full, the evidence fully collected and an opportunity  given to the company in question to defend themselves, before an announcement could then be made. The language used by the NY DFS also stands out. "Rogue institution", as they dubbed StanChart, is just one example of the unusually inflammatory phrasing.

Standard Chartered. Photograph: Getty Images

Martha Gill writes the weekly Irrational Animals column. You can follow her on Twitter here: @Martha_Gill.

Photo: Getty
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The big problem for the NHS? Local government cuts

Even a U-Turn on planned cuts to the service itself will still leave the NHS under heavy pressure. 

38Degrees has uncovered a series of grisly plans for the NHS over the coming years. Among the highlights: severe cuts to frontline services at the Midland Metropolitan Hospital, including but limited to the closure of its Accident and Emergency department. Elsewhere, one of three hospitals in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland are to be shuttered, while there will be cuts to acute services in Suffolk and North East Essex.

These cuts come despite an additional £8bn annual cash injection into the NHS, characterised as the bare minimum needed by Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England.

The cuts are outlined in draft sustainability and transformation plans (STP) that will be approved in October before kicking off a period of wider consultation.

The problem for the NHS is twofold: although its funding remains ringfenced, healthcare inflation means that in reality, the health service requires above-inflation increases to stand still. But the second, bigger problem aren’t cuts to the NHS but to the rest of government spending, particularly local government cuts.

That has seen more pressure on hospital beds as outpatients who require further non-emergency care have nowhere to go, increasing lifestyle problems as cash-strapped councils either close or increase prices at subsidised local authority gyms, build on green space to make the best out of Britain’s booming property market, and cut other corners to manage the growing backlog of devolved cuts.

All of which means even a bigger supply of cash for the NHS than the £8bn promised at the last election – even the bonanza pledged by Vote Leave in the referendum, in fact – will still find itself disappearing down the cracks left by cuts elsewhere. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.