BNP Paribas CEO tells employees bank facing heavy U.S. penalties

Sat Jun 28, 2014 1:31pm EDT
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By Matthias Blamont and Maya Nikolaeva

PARIS (Reuters) - BNP Paribas Chief Executive Officer Jean-Laurent Bonnafe in a message to employees seen by Reuters has warned that the French bank is facing heavy penalties following a U.S. investigation into breaking sanctions which should end "very soon".

BNP Paribas declined to comment but sources have said the French bank is expected to plead guilty to a federal criminal charge and pay nearly $9 billion as part of a larger settlement with multiple enforcement authorities.

An announcement by U.S. authorities on the settlement is expected on Monday, a source familiar with the matter said on Friday.

"I want to say it clearly here: we will receive a heavy penalty," Bonnafe said in an internal message sent on June 27 and seen by Reuters on Saturday.

"However, the difficulties that we are currently experiencing must not affect our plans for the future."

U.S. authorities are examining whether BNP Paribas evaded U.S. sanctions relating primarily to Sudan between 2002 and 2009 and whether it stripped identifying information from wire transfers so they could pass through the U.S. financial system without raising red flags, sources have said.

"This is good news for all staff and for our clients," Bonnafe says in the letter.

"It will enable us to remove the current uncertainties that are weighing on our group. We will be able to put behind us these occurrences, which belong to the past." BNP Paribas is likely to be suspended from converting foreign currencies to dollars on behalf of clients in some businesses for as long as a year, sources familiar with the matter said this week.   Continued...

BNP Paribas bank Chief Executive Officer Jean-Laurent Bonnafe attends the bank's 2014-2016 business development plan presentation in Paris, March 24, 2014. REUTERS/Charles Platiau