HSBC, StanChart shares fall to 22-year lows

Shares in HSBC plunged on fears it could be added to a Chinese list of firms deemed a threat to national security and following news it had been accused of allowing fraudulent activity to go unpunished. (AFP/File)
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Updated 22 September 2020

HSBC, StanChart shares fall to 22-year lows

  • Falls follow reports on movements of allegedly illicit funds; shares fall amid wider selloff in stocks

LONDON: HSBC’s shares in Hong Kong and Standard Chartered’s in London fell on Monday to their lowest since at least 1998 after media reports that they and other banks, including Barclays and Deutsche Bank, moved large sums of allegedly illicit funds over nearly two decades despite red flags about the origins of the money.

BuzzFeed and other media articles were based on leaked suspicious activity reports (SARs) filed by banks and other financial firms with the US Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCen).

HSBC shares in London fell as much as 5 percent to 288 pence, their lowest intraday level since 2009, after the lender’s Hong Kong shares earlier touched a 25-year low. The stock has now nearly halved since the start of the year.

StanChart dropped as much as 4.6 percent in London to its lowest since 1998, against the backdrop of a broader sell-off in the market with the STOXX European banks index down 4.8 percent.

More than 2,100 SARs, which are in themselves not necessarily proof of wrongdoing, were obtained by BuzzFeed News and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and other media organizations.

In a statement to Reuters on Sunday, HSBC said “all of the information provided by the ICIJ is historical.” The bank said that as of 2012 it had embarked on a “multi-year journey to overhaul its ability to combat financial crime.”

StanChart said in a statement it took its “responsibility to fight financial crime extremely seriously and have invested substantially in our compliance programs.”

Barclays said it believes it has complied with “all its legal and regulatory obligations, including in relation to US sanctions.”

The most number of SARs in the cache related to Deutsche Bank, whose shares fell 5.2 percent on Monday. In a statement on Sunday, Deutsche Bank said the ICIJ had “reported on a number of historic issues.”

“We have devoted significant resources to strengthening our controls and we are very focused on meeting our responsibilities and obligations,” a spokesperson for the bank said.

London-headquartered HSBC and StanChart, among other global banks, have paid billions of dollars in fines in recent years for violating US sanctions on Iran and anti-money laundering rules.

The files contained information about more than $2 trillion worth of transactions between 1999 and 2017, which were flagged by internal compliance departments of financial institutions as suspicious. 

The ICIJ reported the leaked documents were a tiny fraction of the reports filed with FinCEN. HSBC and StanChart were among the five banks that appeared most often in the documents, the ICIJ reported.

“It confirms what we already knew — that there are huge numbers of SARs being filed with relatively low numbers of cases brought through to prosecution,” said Etelka Bogardi, a Hong Kong-based financial services regulatory partner at law firm Norton Rose Fulbright.


Researchers say new model shows Turkish inflation well above official tally

Updated 36 min 24 sec ago

Researchers say new model shows Turkish inflation well above official tally

  • Since last year, opposition lawmakers have raised questions about the accuracy of official inflation data
  • Year-on-year inflation was 11.75% according to the official tally announced earlier this month

ISTANBUL: Turkish monthly inflation was more than triple the official rate in September, according to a new model developed by a group of academics and researchers based on more frequent data than the government statistics office.
Veysel Ulusoy, a professor at an Istanbul-based university and head of the independent Inflation Research Group (ENAG), said the model collects “several times more” price data than the official Turkish Statistical Institute (TUIK) tally, and is meant to complement it.
Since last year, opposition lawmakers have raised questions about the accuracy of official inflation data, arguing that the published rate was lower than the market realities.
According to ENAG’s first published finding, consumer prices in September rose 3.61% from the previous month, compared to TUIK’s calculation of 0.97% increase.
Year-on-year inflation was 11.75% according to the official tally announced earlier this month. ENAG has not yet published a year-on-year figure.
TUIK was not immediately available for comment.
“We observed price differences and volatility in almost all groups in the basket,” Ulusoy said in an interview. ENAG brings together academics from multiple Turkish universities.
“TUIK collects 550,000 prices for all the basket items in a month. ENAG calculations include several times more than that, constructing a richer set of data,” Ulusoy said.
Turkish annual inflation has remained in double digits this year despite a sharp economic contraction in the second quarter due to the coronavirus pandemic. High prices and a record low lira prompted the central bank to raise interest rates last month, and it is expected to hike again on Thursday.
The ENAG model can calculate inflation as frequently as every hour, meaning it can fill gaps for researchers and investors, Ulusoy said. It weighs items in the same way as TUIK, but excludes price data from health, education spending and alcoholic drinks.
The September calculation showed that school-related items had the most price spikes including computers, tablets and mobile phones, as well as children’s’ clothing and some agricultural goods.
Ulusoy said the ENAG model showed that tablets and computer prices were up more than 30% in September from August due to school reopenings, while TUIK put these items at around 4% month-on-month.
Last year opposition parties submitted parliamentary questions to Finance Minister Berat Albayrak over claims that TUIK tweaked inflation data for political reasons, claims dismissed as groundless by the head of the institute.