News Column

BNP Paribas Faces $10 Billion Fine

May 30, 2014

Sean Farrell, theguardian.com

BNP Paribas, France's biggest bank, is reported to be facing a fine of more than $10bn (6bn) to settle allegations that it violated US sanctions against Iran and other countries.

The US justice department is pushing the bank to plead guilty to the charges and pay one of the biggest penalties ever imposed on a bank, according to the Wall Street Journal. A deal between the bank and the authorities is still weeks away and the final penalty could yet come in lower than $10bn. The Journal said BNP was seeking to pay less than $8bn, though a person familiar with the bank said its negotiators had not proposed that figure to the justice department.

The US has been investigating BNP Paribas for years and the bank said last month that it faced a penalty of at least $1.1bn but declined to name the specific sum. Last week it was reported to be facing a fine of at least $3bn but the picture now looks far gloomier for the bank.

A $10bn fine would be more than five times the biggest amount paid by a bank to settle allegations of violating US sanctions. The US authorities have come down hard on foreign banks, many of them from the UK, for allowing transactions through the US financial system involving parties in Iran, Sudan and other blacklisted countries.

HSBC handed over $1.97bn in 2012, though that fine also settled allegations of money laundering for Mexican drug cartels. Standard Chartered was the next biggest offender, agreeing to pay a total of $667m to the justice department and New York's banking regulator, mainly for allowing transactions linked to Iran.

On top of the potentially huge fine, BNP Paribas could suffer a temporary ban on processing dollar transactions a business that is essential to the operations of an international bank. Benjamin Lawsky, New York's aggressive financial regulator, is said to be seeking a suspension.

As well as the US justice department, BNP Paribas's conduct is being probed by the US treasury department, the attorney's office in Manhattan, the Manhattan district attorney's office and Lawsky's department.

A spokesman for BNP Paribas in London declined to comment.

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Original headline: BNP Paribas faces fine of more than $10bn in US sanctions investigation


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Source: (c) 2014 Guardian Newspapers Limited.


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