New York's banking regulator had requested the departure of the
long-serving Georges Chodron de Courcel as part of a settlement for
alleged violations of sanctions against Iran, Sudan and other
countries, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters on June 5.
BNP Paribas did not mention the investigation in its announcement.
It said the 64-year-old's departure, in less than three weeks' time,
was at his own request and would allow him to comply with new French
bank regulations on the number of directorships he can hold.
Chodron de Courcel is one of the bank's three most senior managers
under Chief Executive Jean-Laurent Bonnafe and has direct
responsibility for the investment banking activities that are at the
centre of the investigation.
A spokeswoman for the bank said he had planned to retire this year
anyway and would not comment further on the U.S. proceedings. A
source familiar with matter said last week the bank was not
considering executive departures in connection with the
The bank said Chodron de Courcel had "devoted his entire 42-year
career to BNP and then BNP Paribas, and has made a decisive
contribution to the Groupís development, and especially to the
project which eventually led to the creation of the new BNP Paribas
On Wednesday, a person familiar with the matter said Vivien Levy-Garboua,
a senior adviser and formerly the head of compliance for the French
bank, was also among people targeted by the superintendent of New
York's Department of Financial Services, Benjamin Lawsky.
U.S. authorities - five of them in all including the New York
financial regulator - are investigating whether BNP evaded U.S.
sanctions between 2002 and 2009 and whether it stripped out
identifying information from wire transfers so they could pass
through the U.S. financial system without raising red flags.
BNP Paribas may have to pay a fine of about $10 billion and face
other penalties such as being suspended from clearing clients'
dollar transactions, sources close to the situation have said.
The potential impact has raised concern in French government and
banking circles. President Francois Hollande raised the issues with
Barack Obama last week.
On Wednesday, Bank of France Governor Christian Noyer said a dollar
clearing suspension could be disruptive to the international
BNP has said publicly only that it is in discussions with U.S.
authorities about "certain U.S. dollar payments involving countries,
persons and entities that could have been subject to economic
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It has set aside $1.1 billion for the fine but told shareholders it
could be far higher than that. Last month it also said it had
improved control processes to ensure such mistakes did not occur
The bank's market value has dropped by 15 percent, erasing around 11
billion euros ($15 billion), in the four months since it first
announced the provision for the fine on Feb. 13. Its shares were up
0.5 percent at 51.60 euros on Thursday.
Since then the scale of the likely fine has risen sharply, and a
figure as high as $16 billion was suggested at one point, according
to people familiar with the matter.
In the past two years the U.S. Justice Department has said it has
broken records on penalties for corporate misconduct at least seven
times, including three times this year alone. The most recent was
Credit Suisse in May, which paid $2.6 billion over charges that it
helped Americans evade U.S. taxes, the largest penalty ever levied
in a criminal tax case.
Total corporate criminal penalties in the United States overall
increased about 647 percent between 2001 and 2012 to about $4.3
billion, according to figures compiled by University of Virginia law
school professor Brandon Garrett.
There are multiple explanations for the rising fines. For one, cases
related to the 2007-2009 financial crisis have produced big
settlements connected to trillions of dollars in subprime mortgage
products. U.S. authorities have also turned their attention to other
crimes involving big dollar amounts, including money laundering,
sanctions violations and the rigging of benchmark interest rates.
(Reporting by Andrew Callus, Blaise Robinson, Alexandre
Boksenbaum-Granier and Natalie Huet; Editing by Ingrid Melander,
Philippa Fletcher and Will Waterman)
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