Audit Notes: Singing on Libor, another bank scandal, Star Tribune

The NYT on how banks are turning each other in

The New York Times, in a good page-one story, reports that giant banks are selling each other out trying to scurry to safety in the Libor scandal.

In trying to work out a deal, (Barclays) offered information on the multiyear scheme with Deutsche Bank, HSBC, Société Générale and Crédit Agricole, according to government and bank officials. Also, a senior trader at Barclays tried to manipulate the Euro interbank offered rate, or Euribor.

Other cases are expected to follow. The Justice Department is aiming to file criminal actions against two banks before the end of the year and is preparing to arrest former traders at Barclays and other banks, according to government officials. In addition, state attorneys general and local district attorneys have approached the Justice Department in recent weeks, seeking a role in the case.

Pass the popcorn—unless you watch you get your news from NBC and ABC. Media Matters reported last week that the nightly newscasts on those networks still had yet to report on the massive scandal that broke more than a month earlier, which is pathetic.

— New York regulators charged British bank Standard Chartered with brazenly laundering a quarter trillion dollars in Iranian funds through its New York branch.

Here’s what a senior banker in London told underlings at the American branch who raised grave concerns about the lawbreaking:

“You fucking Americans. Who are you to tell us, the rest of the world, that we’re not going to deal with Iranians.””

Here’s how The New York Times neuters that memorable quote for its sensitive readers:

According to the order, the response was hostile, denigrated Americans and asked: “Who are you to tell us, the rest of the world, that we’re not going to deal with Iranians.”

Where were the auditors? Helping out:

Even the independent monitoring, by Deloitte & Touche, was perverted, according to Mr. Lawsky. In 2005, at the behest of the bank, Deloitte agreed to omit critical transactions from its report to regulators. “This is too much and too politically sensitive for both SCB and Deloitte. That is why I drafted the watered-down version,” a Deloitte executive said in a 2005 e-mail in the order.

— MinnPost takes a good look at the private-equity firm that has accumulated a 49.8 percent stake in the Star Tribune, and the health of that paper after its bankruptcy:

The Strib produces cash flow in the tens of millions, and has never needed to tap post-bankruptcy owners for more cash.

As most people know, the Strib is sitting on five acres of downtown land in or next to the new Vikings stadium site; if a sale price approaches the $45 million the Vikings offered in 2007, that asset alone would almost equal a $32-per-share valuation.

According to Strib agreements, any land proceeds must pay down the newspaper’s debt, which stood at $100 million post-bankruptcy but is now down to $70 million following a voluntary $15 million payment earlier this year. (Managers made a similar payment in 2010.)

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , , ,