Hollande to raise possible 'disproportionate' BNP fine with Obama

Wed Jun 4, 2014 1:02pm EDT
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By Elizabeth Pineau and Julien Ponthus

PARIS (Reuters) - French President Francois Hollande said on Wednesday he will raise concerns about a possible $10 billion-plus U.S. fine on BNP Paribas BNPP.PA that he considers "disproportionate" with his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama.

France's biggest listed bank is under investigation by U.S. authorities over whether it evaded U.S. sanctions, mainly on Sudan, Iran and Syria, between 2002 and 2009, and Hollande said he would tackle Obama on the potential fine when they meet on Thursday.

"I don't know if he wants to talk about it, but I will talk to him about it," Hollande told reporters during a trip to Warsaw.

French officials have said Obama, who will visit France for Friday's 70th anniversary of the World War Two D-Day landings in Normandy, would dine with Hollande at a restaurant in Paris.

U.S. authorities allege BNP Paribas stripped out identifying information from wire transfers so they could pass through the U.S. financial system without raising red flags. Sources familiar with the matter say any fine could top $10 billion.

Hollande confirmed he had written to Obama in April to express concern at the possible fine, one of several interventions he had made. "I've put forward arguments on the disproportionate character," he said.

"For now, no decision has been taken," he added. "We are in a phase where BNP is doing the negotiating, not France. I am just here to put across a certain number of arguments."

Hollande's intervention takes the drum roll of French concern over reports of the possibly huge fine to the highest level, following increasingly forthright objections from senior French ministers.   Continued...

An employee walks behind the logo of BNP Paribas in a company's building in Issy-les-Moulineaux, near Paris, June 2, 2014. REUTERS/Charles Platiau