The US is seeking more than US$10 billion from French bank BNP Paribas
to settle charges it violated US sanctions on Iran, Sudan and Cuba, the
Wall Street Journal reported.
WASHINGTON: The US is seeking more than US$10 billion from French bank
BNP Paribas to settle criminal charges it violated sanctions on Iran,
Sudan and Cuba, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.
Citing people familiar with the negotiations between the bank and the
Justice Department, the newspaper said the two sides are still locked in
talks, and that BNP wants to pay less than US$8 billion.
Both numbers are far higher than earlier reports of less than US$4
billion, and would far outpace the US$1.9 billion British bank HSBC was
fined in 2012 for routinely handling money transfers for countries under
US sanction and for Mexican drug traffickers.
The Journal said a final resolution of the BNP case, which related to
the bank's activity in 2002-2009, is "likely weeks away."
A person familiar with the talks could not comment on the Journal's
number, but told AFP the fine could be above US$5 billion.
The source said the amount is linked to other key issues under
negotiation, including whether the bank pleads guilty to felony charges,
and whether it keeps its US banking license.
According to the Journal, the two sides are also discussing whether BNP,
as part of its punishment, will be temporarily denied the right to
transfer money into and out from the United States, a central part of
any foreign bank's business in the US.
The report said Justice Department prosecutors continue to press the
bank to plead guilty to the charges, which theoretically could risk its
US banking license.
But in a separate case last week involving a bank helping thousands of
Americans avoid taxes, Switzerland's Credit Suisse pleaded guilty to one
felony charge and was fined US$2.6 billion, but was allowed to keep its
That was the first time in 20 years a major bank had been convicted on
US criminal charges.
Officials of BNP, the largest publicly traded French bank, could not be
immediately contacted to comment on the Journal report.
Last year it set aside 789 million euros (US$1.1 billion) to resolve the
US sanctions case.
But in its first-quarter earnings report in late April, BNP noted "a
possibility that the amount of the fines could be far in excess of the
amount of the provision."
In May a person familiar with the negotiations said US prosecutors were
insisting that it plead guilty to charges it did business with
sanctioned parties in Iran, Sudan and elsewhere; pay a large fine; and
fire 12 employees involved in the transactions.
But BNP chief executive Jean-Laurent Bonnafe had expressed grave
concerns to regulators and prosecutors about lodging a guilty plea, in
part because it could endanger the bank's license for operating in the
US, according to the source.
BNP would likely be able to absorb such a large settlement without being
At the end of the first quarter this year, the bank had 90 billion euros
in shareholder equity, a 264 billion euro liquidity reserve and a strong
10.6 percent capital ratio.
But the fine could impact shareholders. Net income for the quarter was
1.7 billion euros, on 9.9 billion euros in revenues.
Source: US seeks to fine BNP US$10b for breaking sanctions - Channel