US, French bank close to deal on $9 billion fine
The U.S. government and French bank BNP Paribas are close to a settlement over alleged sanctions violations that would require the bank to plead guilty, pay almost $9 billion in penalties and face other sanctions, a person familiar with the matter said Monday.
The person described the deal as imminent, but said it was not exactly clear when it would be publicly announced. The person spoke only on condition of anonymity because no agreement had yet been finalized.
BNP Paribas, SA, France's largest bank, has been under investigation for financial transactions through its New York office for clients in Iran, Sudan and Cuba in violation of U.S. trade sanctions. A report by the Wall Street Journal said the bank intentionally hid $30 billion in such transactions, by far more than in any such case so far.
The French economy minister, meanwhile, urged the U.S. Department of Justice to be "fair and proportionate" when deciding on the potential fine. Arnaud Montebourg, speaking on BFM television Monday, said the U.S. has an unfair advantage in the global "economic war" because of a law allowing prosecution of foreign companies for activities outside American soil.
France appealed this month to President Barack Obama to intervene, but Obama declined to get involved and said he would read about the case "in the newspapers just like everybody else."
Meanwhile, the bank said this month that a top executive, Chief Operating Officer Georges Chodron de Courcel, would retire in September. His term was to finish in 2016 and the bank did not explain the reason for his departure.
U.S. banking regulators sought the departure of Chodron de Courcel and other executives as part of the investigation.
Shares in BNP were flat in afternoon Paris trading.
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