BNP Paribas '$10bn' US fine unreasonable, says France

BNP exterior Image copyright Getty Images

France's foreign minister has said the reported $10bn (£6bn; 7.3bn euros) fine being faced by banking giant BNP Paribas in the US is "not reasonable".

Media reports have suggested the bank might have to pay the fine over allegations it broke trade sanctions against Sudan, Iran and Cuba.

The US Justice Department is currently looking into the claims.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said a fine of the size suggested would be "an extremely serious problem".

Speaking on the France 2 television channel, he added it would be an example of an "unfair and unilateral decision".

"The fine has to be proportionate and reasonable. These figures are not reasonable," Mr Fabius said.

His warning comes just two days ahead of Barack Obama's visit to France, where the US President is set to hold bilateral talks with French President Francois Hollande.

Mr Fabius said that if a fine of the reported scale was imposed, it would hit BNP Paribas' funds and result in fewer loans for French businesses.

"It's an extremely serious question that the Americans must handle in a spirit of partnership and not unilaterally," he added.

Record penalty

In April, BNP Paribas said it had already set aside $1.1bn to cover the cost of the violations.

At the time, the bank wrote in a document: "A high degree of uncertainty exists as to the nature and amount of penalties that the US authorities could impose on the bank following completion of the ongoing process: there is the possibility that the amount of the fines could be far in excess of the amount of the provision."

If approved, and if BNP admits to criminal wrongdoing, the settlement would be the largest criminal penalty in US history, surpassing oil giant BP's $4bn agreement with the US Department of Justice in 2012.

US regulators have recently stepped up their actions against banks that violate laws against money laundering and tax evasion, amongst other violations.

Earlier in May, Swiss bank Credit Suisse agreed to a $2.6bn penalty and admitted criminal wrongdoing in helping "tax cheats" avoid paying US taxes.

To date, the largest fine levied against a bank by US regulators for sanctions violations was the $1.9bn HSBC paid in 2012.

Related Topics

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites