Thursday

29th Sep 2016

EU commissioner steps into BNP Paribas row with US regulators

France’s top EU official on Thursday (12 June) suggested US regulators scale back a massive fine set to cost French bank BNP Paribas billions for its non-compliance with US sanctions.

Michel Barnier, the EU’s internal market commissioner, told reporters in Washington any fine should be “proportionate, fair and objective”.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Barnier steps into row between US and BNP Paribas (Photo: European Parliament)

“Given the importance of this case and the importance of this bank ... we are closely following the situation and we simply wish that this affair be handled in a proportionate, fair and objective manner,” said Barnier.

US authorities accuse BNP Paribas of breaking sanctions against Sudan, Iran and Cuba between 2002 and 2009. The bank is said to have carried out dollar transactions with the three states.

As a consequence, BNP Paribas could lose its authority to clear dollar transactions with a €7.3 billion fine on top.

The figure would be the largest fine against a bank ever imposed by US authorities and could potentially wipe out BNP’s 2013 pre-tax income of about €8.2 billion.

French authorities have already voiced objections over the possible scale of the fine.

They raised the issue with US President Barack Obama on several occasions but without result. The US president says he cannot interfere with the judicial and regulatory process of the US Justice department.

Earlier this month, France's foreign minister Laurent Fabius described the multi-billion euro fine as unreasonable.

He noted the size of the fine, if issued, could endanger an EU-US free trade pact, currently under negotiation.

The EU and US are at loggerheads on whether to include financial services in the free trade agreement.

“We don't agree with the Americans on this point,” said Barnier, reports AFP.

The European Commission, negotiating on the behalf of the bloc of 28 member states, wants financial services integrated into the pact.

Meanwhile, the AFP reports the bank’s chief operating officer Georges Chodron de Courcel on Thursday stepped down in what is described as a surprise move.

BNP said Chodron de Courcel’s departure is not designed to appease the Americans who reportedly wanted him fired along with other top employees.

BNP has also attracted a separate commission investigation over its alleged role in rigging a multi-trillion euro derivatives market at the height of the crisis between 2008 and 2009.

New EU rules on financial products in limbo

A feud between MEPs and the EU commission is threatening to derail financial services regulation that would protect consumers from misleading investment products.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceWhy the Investment Plan for Europe Does not Drive the Sustainable Energy Transition
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region Seeks to Make Its Voice Heard in the World
  3. Taipei EU OfficeCountries Voice Support for Taiwan's Participation in ICAO
  4. World VisionNew Tool Measuring Government Efforts to Protect Children Released
  5. GoogleDid You Know Europe's Largest Dinosaur Gallery Is in Brussels? Check It Out Now
  6. IPHRHuman Rights in Uzbekistan After Karimov - Joint Statement
  7. CISPECloud Infrastructure Providers Unveil Data Protection Code of Conduct
  8. EFAMessages of Hope From the Basque Country and Galicia
  9. Access NowDigital Rights Heroes and Villains. See Who Protects Your Rights, Who Wants to Take Them Away
  10. EJCAppalled by Recommendation to Remove Hamas From EU Terrorism Watch List
  11. GoogleBringing Education to Refugees in Lebanon With the Clooney Foundation for Justice
  12. Belgrade Security ForumCan Democracy Survive Global Disorder?