Lai See

Standard Chartered Bank chairman eats humble pie

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 March, 2013, 4:19am

Someone has evidently had a word in the ear of Standard Chartered Bank chairman Sir John Peace, which has resulted in him having to make an embarrassing retraction. He has released a statement to the London and Hong Kong stock exchanges in which he says that in the press conference that followed the announcement of the bank's annual results at the beginning of March "I made certain statements that I very much regret and that were at best inaccurate".

He explains that he had been asked a question about lower employee bonuses and the fine that the bank paid to the US Department of Justice and the New York County District Attorney's Office in December last year. It will be recalled that the bank agreed to pay a US$340 million fine after it was accused of scheming with Iran to hide transactions worth billions of dollars from the US authorities. Responding to the question, Peace said: "We had no wilful act to avoid sanctions; you know, mistakes are made - clerical errors - and we talked about last year a number of transactions which clearly were clerical errors or mistakes that were made."

However, his attempt to downplay the incident backfired badly and he admits in the statement that "my statement that SCB 'had no wilful act to avoid sanctions' was wrong, and directly contradicts SCB's acceptance of responsibility in the deferred prosecution agreement and accompanying factual statement".

According to the Department of Justice, Standard Chartered "has accepted responsibility for its criminal conduct and that of its employees".

It seems odd that the chairman of the bank wasn't aware of what it had agreed to in New York.


Robert Friedland's new big thing

Mining industry rock star Robert Friedland doesn't do things by halves. He is the former chairman of Ivanhoe Mines, which discovered the huge mineral deposits at Oyu Tolgoi in the South Gobi desert in Mongolia. He has described it "as one of the largest finds in mining history". Friedland left the company last year after Rio Tinto moved in and is now focused on the recently listed Ivanplats, of which he is chairman. It held three world-class deposits, he told the Mines and Money conference in his keynote presentation yesterday. One of them is Platreef, a platinum, palladium rhodium, nickel, copper deposit in South Africa. "We are confident in saying it is the most significant mechanically mineable precious metals mineral discovery on a global scale in the past 100 years." Second is the Kipushi project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. "It's the richest zinc and copper mine in the world." Third, also in the DRC, is the Kamoa copper project. "I believe it is the richest and largest copper discovery in the world," he said with his usual measured understatement. Asked to comment on political risk in South Africa and the DRC, he said he far preferred mining in these countries than Canada or Australia. "Don't you believe what you read in newspapers … Newspapers are just good for wrapping up dead fish. South Africa is one of the greatest mining countries in the world … the government is just looking for a new paradigm where the local people can participate in the wealth on which they are sitting." He wondered how people could trust the highly indebted US government, which in the 1930s made it illegal to hold gold. Then, with a swipe at Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, he brought a big laugh from the audience with: "Do you trust the redhead in Australia?" He concluded that "the safest places to mine are the countries with the richest assets".


Rafael Hui gets a posting

We see that Rafael Hui Si-yan, the former chief secretary who faces eight charges in a case that also involves the Sun Hung Kai Properties billionaire Kwok brothers, faces a new indignity. The charges Hui faces include misconduct in public office, conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office, furnishing false information and conspiracy to offer an advantage to a public servant. However, the new indignity to which we refer is the heinous offence of being posted in the Foreign Correspondents' Club for non-payment of bills. It is possible that he has been distracted by his present legal problems. Some members have actually spent time in jail but still managed to remain in good standing at least so far as the club was concerned.