US authorities and BNP fail to agree on fine - sources

Thursday 19 June 2014 07.47
A proposal by BNP which would have seen it pay less than $10 billion had been turned down - sources
A proposal by BNP which would have seen it pay less than $10 billion had been turned down - sources

Latest talks between US authorities and BNP Paribas on the level of fine it could pay for breaching US sanctions have failed to produce an agreement, sources familiar with the matter said last night. 

One of the sources said a proposal by BNP which would have seen it pay less than $10 billion had been turned down. 

French Finance Minister Michel Sapin said at the weekend that recent talks between France's biggest lender and US authorities had progressed towards a "more equitable" level from previously mooted penalties of anything up to $16 billion.

But bank management who attended a board meeting on Monday were less optimistic about the settlement than they had been the previous week, one of the sources said.

"Chief executive Jean-Laurent Bonnafe said the latest talks had not produced desired results," the source said, adding that "as for the amount of fine, the proposal of below $10 billion by the bank was refused."

The source did not give the exact amount of the fine which BNP had offered to pay, but a second source said the bank and US authorities still remained "many billions" apart. 

A BNP Paribas spokeswoman declined to comment, as did a spokeswoman for New York's Department of Financial Services and a spokesman at the US Department of Justice. 

French authorities have warned that an excessive penalty on BNP could have repercussions for the wider economy. President Francois Hollande raised the matter with his US counterpart Barack Obama, who has said it is a matter for American justice. 

Sources have told Reuters the probe has so far mostly focused on the bank's dollar-financing of oil trade out of Sudan between 2002 and 2009. Washington imposed sanctions against the Khartoum givernment in 1997 over human rights violations and extended them in 2007. 

New York's banking regulator has said the agency would not revoke BNP's license to operate in New York if the bank agreed to other penalties, including the termination of more than a dozen employees and a ban on dollar-clearing. 

It is unclear how broad or long the ban would be.