Ina Opperman

By Ina Opperman

Business Journalist

Standard Bank did not manipulate the Rand – CEO

The private sector did not take kindly to the minister in the presidency’s accusation that it wants to see government collapse.

Standard Bank’s CEO, Sim Tshabalala, has defended the bank, saying it did not manipulate the Rand. He also referenced minister in the presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni’s statement last week that the private sector “engineer and do machination to make sure the government collapses”.

Ntshavheni was asked about government’s reaction to the ongoing case against banks at the Competition Tribunal for anti-competitive behaviour that involved manipulating the value of the Rand.

“Last week was difficult. Standard Bank was once again publicly accused of currency manipulation, of being opposed to the South African government, and – in some quarters – even of treason. Standard Bank has not manipulated the value of the Rand. Standard Bank has not engaged in any anti-competitive or criminal conduct,” he says in a statement.

Tshabalala pointed out that while the Competition Appeal Court continues to hear evidence on the alleged Rand fixing case, one of the judges asked in relation to Standard Bank “What is the point of pursuing this?”

“Relatively soon after these allegations were first made, in 2015, the Reserve Bank (Sarb) found ‘no evidence of malpractice or serious misconduct in the South African foreign exchange market… [and that] the foreign exchange market in South Africa is competitive.’

ALSO READ: Treasury concerned after bank admits to manipulating the Rand

Reserve Bank could not find collusion

“This month, the Sarb released a technical paper showing that convergence in Rand markets is “in the main, a rational response to public information, indicating central bank credibility” and the lack of collusion in being able to manipulate the Rand. These kinds of legal and technical processes do not make the headlines.”

It is clear from his statement that Tshabalala is not happy with the media and social media attention the banks got after Standard Chartered Bank admitted liability, saying the week demonstrated the health of our democracy in general – and of our free media and social media in particular.

“The first thing to emphasise is that Standard Bank never hides behind legal tactics or claims of confidentiality unless any particular matter is before the courts and is sub judice. Our track record shows that if we did anything illegal in the foreign exchange market, we would have admitted and reported it immediately.”

Tshabalala says Standard Bank is not playing for time or looking for a deal.

“When we say that we are innocent of currency manipulation, we mean it. We will not settle. Where we find that our people engaged in wrongful conduct, we will act swiftly and will work with the relevant authorities. Where we find no evidence of wrongdoing, we will protect and defend our people.”

ALSO READ: Standard Chartered admits it manipulated the rand, agrees to R42 million fine

Standard Bank is pulling its weight in SA

He also pointed out Standard Bank was among the main sponsors and main speakers at two major conferences, SA Tomorrow and the AGOA Forum, which shows the bank’s devotion to encouraging investment in South Africa.

“We are patriots who would never undermine this country. But we will not sit back idly either or toe the line. As South Africa and Africa’s largest private sector financial institution, we believe we have a right and a duty to comment on economic and financial sector policy.”

The bank will continue to argue for the reforms needed to improve South Africa’s competitive advantages, to reduce the cost of capital and so to accelerate growth and job creation, he says. 

“Right now, for instance, faster reforms to the transport sector, far wider use of public-private partnerships across the public sector and more effective law enforcement are top of our list. Since banks depend on trust and on contracts, a strong rule of law is absolutely vital to us.

“But we will never comment outside our mandate. And we will never make a statement for, or against, any political party or individual politician. We exist to serve the economic development of South Africa and to help South Africans flourish. All South Africans. We do not take sides. We stand on the side of sound universal principles that seek to advance the cause of ordinary people, the Constitution and the rule of law.”

Access premium news and stories

Access to the top content, vouchers and other member only benefits