British MPs Accuse US of Anti-City Agenda

Several senior British MPs accused U.S. regulators of pursuing an anti-City of London agenda in its assault on Standard Chartered, suggesting it was part of an apparent campaign to weaken a rival financial center.

London Financial District
Photo: Vulture Labs | Getty Images
London Financial District

John Mann, a Labour member of the Treasury select committee, said he detected an “increasing anti-British bias by U.S. regulators and politicians” which could have been influenced by a desire to shift business from the City to Wall Street.

“This is a real power grab [by U.S. authorities] and the stakes are very high,” he said.

Unease is growing among MPs – even among opposition Labour politicians who have been severely critical of the banking industry – about the spate of negative headlines about Barclays over its involvement in the Libor scandal, HSBCover money laundering, and now StanChart .

Pat McFadden, another Labour member of the Treasury committee, said all banks should abide by the rules. “But we have to be careful after all the recent reports not to think of London as the Wild West and New York as some kind of perfect financial nirvana; that would not be accurate.”

Britain’s Treasury limited its response to an official comment: “This report suggests some concerning allegations, but they are allegations at this stage and we will be looking closely at the response from Standard Chartered.”

But the bank was supported by Conservative MPs such as Sam Gyimah, who said: “What we have seen in the case of Standard Chartered is a highly inflammatory report that is effectively the case for the prosecution.”

Kwasi Kwarteng, another Tory MP, said U.S. regulators have a history of pursuing businesses on “slender evidence”. “Some of these investigations are politically driven, I wonder if this New York regulator is … looking for a high-profile scalp,” he said.