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Deloitte chief hits back over 'diluted StanChart report'

Deloitte chief executive Joe Echevarria is fighting back against allegations that his firm helped Standard Chartered hide transactions with Iran, saying charges by the top New York state banking regulator were "distortions of the facts".

The New York State Department of Financial Services, in a case involving US anti-money laundering laws, said last week that Deloitte consultants omitted critical details in a report to regulators about Standard Chartered.

The regulator cited an e-mail from a Deloitte partner saying he drafted a "watered-down version" of the report after being asked by Standard Chartered to omit information. "It's an unfortunate choice of words that was pulled out of context," Echevarria, CEO since June 2011, said.

A source close to the matter said the department had no plans to bring charges against Deloitte. A department spokesman refused to confirm or deny that statement.

Echevarria said he was in line with his 16-year-old son at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, a week ago when he first heard of the Standard Chartered matter by e-mail.

In his 35th year at Deloitte, Echevarria said one of his first thoughts was: "There's got to be more to this."

The head New York banking regulator, Benjamin Lawsky, alleged Standard Chartered hid from regulators some 60,000 "secret transactions" tied to Iran. Standard Chartered has said the regulator's account did not present "a full and accurate picture of the facts".

Lawsky said that at one point, Standard Chartered asked Deloitte to delete from its draft report any reference to payments that could reveal the bank's practices involving Iranian entities. Lawsky quoted an e-mail from a Deloitte partner who said "we agreed" to the request.

Echevarria declined to discuss specific allegations, but in a statement last week, Deloitte said "contrary to the allegation", it "absolutely did not delete any reference to certain types of payments" from a final report. Deloitte said the report did not include a recommendation that had been included in a prior draft.

"Presumably the facts will bear out that we certainly held up all the standards required and behaved in an ethical and responsible way," Echevarria said.

Banking regulators did not name the Deloitte partner involved but said his title was global leader of anti-money laundering and trade sanctions. A person familiar with the report has said the partner was Michael Zeldin, a former Justice Department official.

In another damaging charge, the banking regulator said Deloitte gave Standard Chartered two reports with highly confidential client information - an allegation that, if true, would violate one of the cardinal rules in the consulting business.

"We have pretty robust processes in place for behaviour that violates law, rules or firm policies," Echevarria said. "Appropriate actions are taken when individuals are found to have done that."

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Deloitte chief hits back over 'diluted StanChart report'