Top BNP executive to go as talks on U.S. penalty gather pace

Thu Jun 12, 2014 12:47pm EDT
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By Andrew Callus and Maya Nikolaeva

PARIS (Reuters) - The chief operating officer of BNP Paribas is to step down at the end of June and retire completely on Sept. 30, France's biggest bank announced on Thursday as talks with U.S. authorities over a potential $10 billion fine gathered pace.

New York's banking regulator had requested the departure of the long-serving Georges Chodron de Courcel as part of a settlement for alleged violations of sanctions against Iran, Sudan and other countries, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters on June 5.

U.S. authorities - five of them in all including the New York financial regulator - are investigating whether BNP evaded U.S. sanctions between 2002 and 2009. Sources familiar with the matter say they are trying to establish whether the bank stripped out identifying information from wire transfers so they could pass through the U.S. financial system without raising red flags.

Conference calls with various U.S. authorities are taking place every six hours, a source familiar with the matter in France said.

"Negotiations are far from over, but everybody would like to see the case move forward quickly," the source said. "We understand that the U.S. authorities want to reach a settlement before July 4 at the latest."

BNP Paribas did not mention the investigation in its announcement. It said the 64-year-old's departure, in less than three weeks' time, was at his own request and would allow him to comply with new French bank regulations on the number of directorships he can hold.

Chodron de Courcel is one of the bank's three most senior managers under Chief Executive Jean-Laurent Bonnafe and has direct responsibility for the investment banking activities that are at the centre of the investigation.

A spokeswoman for the bank said he had planned to retire this year anyway and would not comment further on the U.S. proceedings. A source familiar with matter said last week the bank was not considering executive departures in connection with the negotiations.   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