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.

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Theresa May’s Brexit speech is Angela Merkel’s victory – here’s why

The Germans coined the word “merkeln to describe their Chancellor’s approach to negotiations. 

It is a measure of Britain’s weak position that Theresa May accepts Angela Merkel’s ultimatum even before the Brexit negotiations have formally started

The British Prime Minister blinked first when she presented her plan for Brexit Tuesday morning. After months of repeating the tautological mantra that “Brexit means Brexit”, she finally specified her position when she essentially proposed that Britain should leave the internal market for goods, services and people, which had been so championed by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s. 

By accepting that the “UK will be outside” and that there can be “no half-way house”, Theresa May has essentially caved in before the negotiations have begun.

At her meeting with May in July last year, the German Chancellor stated her ultimatum that there could be no “Rosinenpickerei” – the German equivalent of cherry picking. Merkel stated that Britain was not free to choose. That is still her position.

Back then, May was still battling for access to the internal market. It is a measure of how much her position has weakened that the Prime Minister has been forced to accept that Britain will have to leave the single market.

For those who have followed Merkel in her eleven years as German Kanzlerin there is sense of déjà vu about all this.  In negotiations over the Greek debt in 2011 and in 2015, as well as in her negotiations with German banks, in the wake of the global clash in 2008, Merkel played a waiting game; she let others reveal their hands first. The Germans even coined the word "merkeln", to describe the Chancellor’s favoured approach to negotiations.

Unlike other politicians, Frau Merkel is known for her careful analysis, behind-the-scene diplomacy and her determination to pursue German interests. All these are evident in the Brexit negotiations even before they have started.

Much has been made of US President-Elect Donald Trump’s offer to do a trade deal with Britain “very quickly” (as well as bad-mouthing Merkel). In the greater scheme of things, such a deal – should it come – will amount to very little. The UK’s exports to the EU were valued at £223.3bn in 2015 – roughly five times as much as our exports to the United States. 

But more importantly, Britain’s main export is services. It constitutes 79 per cent of the economy, according to the Office of National Statistics. Without access to the single market for services, and without free movement of skilled workers, the financial sector will have a strong incentive to move to the European mainland.

This is Germany’s gain. There is a general consensus that many banks are ready to move if Britain quits the single market, and Frankfurt is an obvious destination.

In an election year, this is welcome news for Merkel. That the British Prime Minister voluntarily gives up the access to the internal market is a boon for the German Chancellor and solves several of her problems. 

May’s acceptance that Britain will not be in the single market shows that no country is able to secure a better deal outside the EU. This will deter other countries from following the UK’s example. 

Moreover, securing a deal that will make Frankfurt the financial centre in Europe will give Merkel a political boost, and will take focus away from other issues such as immigration.

Despite the rise of the far-right Alternative für Deutschland party, the largely proportional electoral system in Germany will all but guarantee that the current coalition government continues after the elections to the Bundestag in September.

Before the referendum in June last year, Brexiteers published a poster with the mildly xenophobic message "Halt ze German advance". By essentially caving in to Merkel’s demands before these have been expressly stated, Mrs May will strengthen Germany at Britain’s expense. 

Perhaps, the German word schadenfreude comes to mind?

Matthew Qvortrup is author of the book Angela Merkel: Europe’s Most Influential Leader published by Duckworth, and professor of applied political science at Coventry University.