An analyst with the British South African bank Investec has described the regulatory strictures on Standard Chartered with the last words of Eric Garner, who choked to death during an attempted arrest by the New York City police.
Ian Gordon, who was recommending that investors buy shares of Standard Chartered, titled his research note “I can’t breathe” and later directly compared the struggles of both Garner and Standard Chartered against “authoritarian control”.
Gordon, head of banks research for Investec, also told the FT that US regulatory activity had parallels with the policing that led to Eric Garner’s death. “They are both examples of abuse of power or authoritarian control gone wrong,” Gordon is quoted as saying.
“Standard Chartered – a legitimate business – is being prevented from breathing or operating by US regulatory discriminatory behaviour. The parallel I see is unfettered power by a US agency,” Gordon told the FT’s Arnold.
The note drew widespread criticism for being in poor taste. A representative for Investec declined to comment, noting that the report had cleared the bank’s regulatory compliance review.
Gordon’s note came after US regulators relaunched investigations into Standard Chartered’s breach of US sanctions rules. American regulators had previously fined Standard Chartered $667m for doing business with Iran in defiance of sanctions already in place.
The note’s title repeats the last words of Garner, the Staten Island resident who died after a policeman placed him in a chokehold. A grand-jury decision to not indict the policeman last week sparked nationwide protests against racial profiling and police brutality in the US as well as a silent protest by black NBA players who donned “I can’t breathe” T-shirts during their warm-ups for a prominent game this week.
US regulators have agreed not to prosecute Standard Chartered for an additional three years. During this extension, the US Justice Department and New York county district attorney’s office will evaluate the bank’s sanctions-compliance program. Such agreements, known as deferred-prosecution agreements, have become more common in bank regulation, even though critics say they are largely toothless.
Investec’s counterintuitive recommendation in Standard Chartered’s favor is surprising even without a controversial title. The bank has struggled with its regulators, who have shown a willingness to impose fines that have hurt its stock price.
Gordon supported Standard Chartered, which was relatively unharmed by the banking crisis, expressing the opinion that the bank was being bullied by regulators.
Benjamin Lawsky, head of New York’s Department of Financial Services and one of the regulators who negotiated with Standard Chartered, called for Investec to apologize: “Terrible,” Lawsky tweeted. “Should be disavowed with apologies by Investec.” He reportedly received the apology.
This article was written by Siri Srinivas, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 10th December 2014 19.59 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010