U.S. Tip-Toes Closer To Unprecedented Fine On French Banking Giant

The U.S. government is reportedly nearing a settlement with BNP Paribas, drawing to a potential end allegations that the French bank hid $30 billion in transactions involving countries that violated U.S. sanctions.

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U.S. officials are close to a multibillion-dollar settlement with the giant, French bank BNP Pariba over allegations of sanctions violations. The bank is expected to admit that its affiliates did business with countries subject to U.S. economic sanctions - Sudan, Cuba and Iran. NPR's Jim Zarroli reports.

JIM ZARROLI, BYLINE: Regulators are still in talks with BNP Pariba, and no resolution is expected before early next week. But a source with knowledge of the case confirmed a story in today's Wall Street Journal that said the broad outlines of a settlement have been agreed upon. The bank is expected to admit criminal wrongdoing and pay a fine of $8 billion to $9 billion. Jimmy Gurule, a professor of law at Notre Dame, says such a settlement would be unprecedented in several ways.

JIMMY GURULE: The amount of the fine will be the largest ever imposed against a bank for violating U.S. economic sanctions.

ZARROLI: The settlement would be unprecedented in other ways, too. Other banks were allowed to enter into deferred prosecution agreements that essentially allowed them to escape conviction. But BNP Pariba is expected to face criminal charges. The settlement could also impose temporary restrictions on the bank's ability to carry out certain dollar-denominated transactions. Gurule says that could really hurt the bank's bottom line.

GURULE: The fact remains that they could lose a lot of clients. A lot of their clients could say, well, look, if we can't get this service from you, we're going to take our business to another bank where we can receive this service.

ZARROLI: As part of the settlement, BNP Pariba would also be required to fire as many as 30 employees who allegedly participated in the crime, though many of them have already left the bank. Jim Zarroli. NPR News, New York.

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