January 8, 2019 / 5:28 PM / 2 months ago

Chilean regulator fines Itau Corpbanca over SQM-linked loans

Jan 8 (Reuters) - Chile’s securities regulator said on Tuesday it had fined lender Itaú Corpbanca $8.8 million for exceeding loan limits in extending credit to companies controlling local lithium producer SQM .

The Superintendency of Banks and Financial Institutions (SBIF) opened an investigation in 2017 into allegations Itaú Corpbanca had granted excessive loans to SQM holding companies Norte Grande, Potasios de Chile and Pampa Calichera.

SBIF said in a statement on Tuesday that two of three fines it initially imposed on Itaú Corpbanca were revoked following a court ruling, but it maintained one charge related to loans the bank extended in 2013, without giving further details.

Itau Corpbanca said that it “lamented” the fine and was considering further legal avenues.

“Itau Corpbanca reiterates its firm conviction that it acted in compliance with the law in respect to the credit lines subject to these charges,” it said.

The bank said the loans in the SBIF investigation were extended to Norte Grande, Potasios de Chile and Pampa Calichera between 2011 and 2015. It did not specify the amounts or give details of the individual loans.

Chilean banking laws hold financial institutions to lending no more than 10 percent of a company’s equity or face fines of 10 percent of the amount exceeded.

The investigation of the Itau Corpbanca loans follows an investigation into a market manipulation scandal in which SQM’s former chairman Julio Ponce was fined in 2014.

That probe, known as “cascadas,” or waterfall in English, for the SQM holding companies involved, including Norte Grande, Potasios de Chile and Pampa Calichera, blighted the country’s record as one of Latin America’s least corrupt economies.

Itau Corpbanca, Chile’s fourth-largest commercial bank, was formed through a merger of Brazil’s largest private lender Itau Unibanco Holding SA and Chile’s Corpbanca, in 2014.

Reporting by Marion Giraldo; writing by Aislinn Laing Editing by Susan Thomas

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