For the past number of weeks, we’ve heard about how the U.S. wants BNP Paribas to plead guilty to violating U.S. sanctions against certain countries like Iran, and pay upwards of $10 billion to show they really mean it. We’ve also heard about how a lot of people in France– like its President, for one— are none too pleased about the idea of such a high fine, and are working hard (though mostly in vain) to get the number down. And while $10 billion does sound like a lot of money, a new report reveals that 1. It could’ve been a lot worse and 2. At this time, BNP might not wanna press its luck.
U.S. authorities negotiating with BNP Paribas over alleged sanctions violations at one point suggested that France’s biggest bank pay a penalty as high as $16 billion, according to people familiar with the matter.
Oh, but it gets better.
While the sources said that number was only proposed as a negotiating tactic in response to an offer from BNP of about $1 billion, the dollar figures being thrown around demonstrate what bankers and their allies say is an alarming trend of ever-increasing record penalties.
$1 billion! Say what you will about BNP, but you’ve got to admire les balls on these guys. Also, you’ve got to really want to be a fly on the wall when this conversation went down:
BNP: How about…$1 billion.
U.S.: How about…$16 billion.
So, a good showing by all, but at this point in the negotiations, BNP might want to quit while it’s ahead, before the next words out of U.S. prosecutors mouths are “How about $16 billion plus another $84 billion plus you’re banned from the country for 5 years? Does that work for you?”