US officials are now investigating Royal Bank of Scotland (LSE: RBS) (NYSE:RBS) for violations of sanctions against Iran. The bailed out bank has declined to comment on the matter, except that it is touch with U.S. and British authorities “to discuss its historical compliance with applicable laws and regulations, including U.S. economic sanctions regulations.”
According to the reports, an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Reserve stems from the voluntary disclosures made by the bank about 18 months ago. A couple of years ago, the part nationalized bank was fined $500 million by U.S. regulators, regarding money laundering activities by the Dutch bank ABN Amro, which was taken over by a consortium led by RBS in 2007. ABM Amro at that time was found guilty of handling unaccounted U.S. dollar transactions for its various clients from countries that were under US sanctions, like Iran, Libya, the Sudan, and Cuba.
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82 percent of RBS is already owned by British taxpayers and there have been talks of fully nationalizing the British bank. In its half yearly results announced last month, RBS exposed that many of its units have been alleged in the suits filed in the U.S., related to claims involving manipulation of the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). “The group considers that it has substantial and credible legal and factual defenses to these and prospective claims,” RBS said. The Brit bank also revealed that it was cooperating with various agencies like U.S. agencies, Japanese Financial Services Agency, the European Commission, and the Canadian Competition, over the LIBOR investigations.
Earlier this month, another British bank, Standard Chartered (LSE: STAN) (NSE: STAN), was fined $340 million by a New York regulator, for carrying out illegal transactions with Iran. Another British bank, Barclays PLC (LSE:BARC) (NYSE:BCS), was fined around $453 million after admitting that its employees presented false reports of interbank borrowing rates that are used to calculate LIBOR.
Hinting on the consequences of the investigations, RBS said “The investigation costs, remediation required or liability incurred could have a material adverse effect on the group’s net assets, operating results, or cash flows in a particular period.”
The question is why are all these scandals involving LIBOR and Iran coming out at the same time?