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BNP Paribas could pay more than $3.5 billion for sanctions breaches

BNP Paribas' headquarters in Paris; courtesy of WikipediaU.S. authorities are seeking more than $3.5 billion from BNP Paribas SA to resolve federal and state investigations into the bank's dealings with sanctioned countries, including Sudan, Iran and Cuba.

The agreement is still being negotiated and the amount could change. But at the top end of estimates, the penalty could be one of the largest ever imposed for a sanctions violation, Bloomberg said Tuesday.

U.S. prosecutors are also seeking a guilty plea from Paris-based BNP, which disclosed in a press release in February that it had set aside $1.1 billion to settle the case. Last month the bank said that amount could be exceeded.

Prosecutors met with BNP officials last week and are still discussing settlement terms, including the type of charges and whether the parent or a subsidiary bank would plead guilty.

Prosecutors want a big penalty against BNP because the misconduct was egregious and the bank didn't fully cooperate with the investigation, Bloomberg said.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. and the DOJ's criminal division chief, David O'Neil, are working together on the investigation.

Federal prosecutors could bring criminal charges under the Bank Secrecy Act for BNP's failure to file suspicious activity reports or for failing to have adequate anti-money laundering controls, sources told Bloomberg. The charges wouldn't trigger the revocation of the bank's charter.

Charges under New York's criminal law could include falsifying business records.


Julie DiMauro is the executive editor of FCPA Blog and can be reached here.