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BNP chief seeks to trim US criminal penalties: source

AFP

A picture taken on April 14, 2012 in Paris, shows the entrance of a BNP Paribas bankA picture taken on April 14, 2012 in Paris, shows the entrance of a BNP Paribas bank

A picture taken on April 14, 2012 in Paris, shows the entrance of a BNP Paribas bankA picture taken on April 14, 2012 in Paris, shows the entrance of a BNP Paribas bank

The head of French bank BNP Paribas met with top US officials last week seeking lower penalties for violating US sanctions laws, a person familiar with the matter said Monday.

US prosectors have told BNP Paribas they want France's largest publicly traded bank to 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, the person involved in the talks told AFP.

BNP chief executive Jean-Laurent Bonnafe 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, who confirmed key elements of a story in The New York Times.

Bonnafe offered to plead guilty on behalf of the bank's BNP Paribas USA subsidiary, but US regulators rejected that proposal, the person added.

On Wednesday, Bonnafe met in Washington with David O'Neil, who heads the Justice Department's criminal division; Preet Bharara, the US attorney in Manhattan; and Cyrus Vance, Manhattan's district attorney.

On Thursday, Bonnafe met in New York with officials from the US Federal Reserve and New York state's top financial regulator, Benjamin Lawsky.

Lawsky has told BNP that the bank's license to operate in the US will not be threatened if the bank accepts a large financial penalty, the source said.

According to US media reports, the penalty could be as much as $2 billion.

Talks are at an advanced stage and could progress quickly if BNP Paribas accepts the demands of regulators, the source said.

The French bank last year set aside 789 million euros ($1.1 billion) to resolve the US sanctions case.

But in its first-quarter earning report in late April, BNP said "there is a possibility that the amount of the fines could be far in excess of the amount of the provision."

Date created : 2014-05-12