US pressuring foreign banks on Iran

European banks financially penalized in the past for flouting US policy.

iran nuke plant 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
iran nuke plant 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
US pressure has prompted four major European banks - UBS and Credit Suisse of Switzerland; ABN Amro of the Netherlands; and the London-based HSBC - to reduce their business dealings with Iranian banks and businesses in light of Iran's intransigence in the international crisis surrounding its nuclear enrichment program, The New York Times reported Monday. Officials in the Treasury and State Departments have invoked various laws addressing banking and antiterrorism, specifically a 1984 statute banning any dealings with nations deemed sponsors of terrorism and the 1996 Iran-Libya Sanctions Act. An additional directive signed by President George W. Bush prohibiting business activity with partners suspected of contributing to the proliferation of unconventional weapons specifies Iran's Aerospace Industries Organization and its Atomic Energy Organization as off-limits.
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Since any bank maintaining a branch in the US, as nearly all European banking institutions do, is subject to US law, the US brings no small amount of leverage to its demands. Foreign banks have already been financially penalized for failing to comply with US decrees regulating foreign business policy. Two years ago, the Federal Reserve fined UBS $100 million for transferring dollars to - among other countries - Iran. ABN Amro was fined $80 million for violating anti-money laundering regulations and sanctions against both Libya and Iran. In addition to legal pressure, officials have also campaigned in Europe and the Middle East to persuade economic powers that Iran is too unstable to function as a viable business partner. US pressure was a factor in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's April decision to raise Iran's rating as a credit risk. Over the last year, Iran's economy has shown a growth rate of less than five percent, and its stock market has plunged over 20%. "I think there is a real and growing sense that there's a risk associated with doing business with Iran, with lending Iran more money, or providing it with a line of credit," Robert G. Joseph, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security told the Times.