Fine for Credit Suisse raises Iran alarm

Wed Dec 16, 2009 9:55am EST
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By Lisa Jucca and Steve Slater

ZURICH/LONDON (Reuters) - A surprise $536 million settlement by Credit Suisse to a U.S. probe over financial dealings with Iran should only do short-term damage to the Swiss bank, but others could now be in the line of fire.

Credit Suisse said late on Tuesday it was in advanced talks over a settlement to a U.S. investigation into payments made between 2002 and 2007 involving countries and entities hit by U.S. economic sanctions. A personal familiar with the issue said the probe related to dealings with Iran.

The Financial Times said U.S. authorities are believed to be investigating nine banks in relation to Iran, without citing sources.

Britain's Lloyds Banking Group said it was continuing talks with U.S. authorities but did not expect to make any further payment in regard to charges that it faked records so clients from restricted countries, including Iran, could do business with it.

Lloyds agreed in January to forfeit $350 million to U.S. authorities in connection with the charges.

Other banks to have highlighted potential risks from U.S. economic sanctions in the past include Royal Bank of Scotland and Barclays.

Credit Suisse, which avoided state aid and emerged as one of the banking sector winners from the financial crisis, said the expected settlement would likely result in a 445 million Swiss franc ($429 million) charge this quarter, or about 360 million francs after tax.

SHORT-TERM HIT   Continued...