NEW YORK (Reuters) - Standard Chartered Plc's (STAN.L) Group Finance Director Richard Meddings cursed Americans in a conversation cited by a New York watchdog pursuing a money laundering case against the British bank, people familiar with the situation said on Wednesday.
However, Standard Chartered executive Ray Ferguson who attended the 2006 meeting in question, said Meddings' remark - rendered by the regulator as "You f---ing Americans" - was not followed by the complaint about U.S. financial sanctions on Iran which was alleged by the New York state banking regulator.
And Standard Chartered CEO Peter Sands told reporters on Wednesday: "We don't believe the quote was accurate."
In a document alleging the British bank hid $250 billion of illegal transactions tied to Iran, the New York State Department of Financial Services quoted an unnamed Standard Chartered executive director saying in 2006 at a meeting about Iran sanctions: "You f---ing Americans. Who are you to tell us, the rest of the world that we're not going to deal with Iranians?"
But Ferguson, who was Chief Executive for the bank in the Americas at the time and is now Singapore CEO, told Reuters that, while the exchanges had been heated among colleagues and Meddings had used the expletive, it had not been followed by the reported comment on U.S. regulations.
Ferguson said Meddings did not, to his recollection, say the second part of the quotation attributed to him in the regulators' account: "I do not recognise the quote that has been attributed to Richard," he said.
It was not clear to what Meddings had in fact referred.
A second source also named Meddings, 54 and a possible future CEO of Standard Chartered, as the speaker of the phrase that has been the most eye-catching piece of evidence quoted so far. The regulator has threatened to strip Standard Chartered of its banking licence, dubbing it a "rogue institution".
The bank strongly denies the regulator's figures, saying that its own researches had found only a tiny proportion of Iran-related transactions - totalling less than $14 million - were questionable under U.S. sanctions rules.
Meddings, one of five executive directors at the time, has not responded to repeated requests for comment.
Sands said: "I think the executive director was Richard at the time.
"On the basis of what we have looked at thus far ... it was a recollection of a meeting several years before. No one at that meeting claims to have made that statement, so we don't know whether the quote is accurate."
The regulator said in the order issued on Monday that in October 2006, Standard Chartered's top official for business in the Americas warned in a "panicked message" that the bank's Iranian dealings could cause "catastrophic reputational damage" and "serious criminal liability".
A group executive director in London then shot back the earthy response, according to a New York branch officer quoted in the order. The reply was "succinctly and unambiguously communicated" and showed "obvious contempt for U.S. banking regulations", the regulator's order said.
Meddings, an Oxford graduate and accountant by profession, became group finance director of the bank shortly afterwards.
As a group executive director he had been in charge of growth and governance across Africa, the Middle East, Pakistan, Europe and the Americas. He had also spent time as executive director in charge of risk.
The loss of a New York banking licence would be a devastating blow for a foreign bank, effectively cutting off direct access to the U.S. bank market.
(Reporting by Carrick Mollenkamp; Additonal reporting by Steve Slater in London and Kelvin Soh in Hong Kong; Editing by Alastair Macdonald)