U.S. repair job for BNP Paribas' new chairman

Thu Sep 25, 2014 12:43pm EDT
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By Maya Nikolaeva and Steve Slater

PARIS/LONDON (Reuters) - Jean Lemierre, a former head of Europe's reconstruction bank and a veteran of international debt negotiations, will need all his diplomatic skills to repair BNP Paribas' (BNPP.PA: Quote) relations with the United States as chairman of France's biggest bank.

BNP's board is expected to name him on Friday as replacement for Baudouin Prot, people familiar with the matter said.

The 64 year-old is set to take on the job at a pivotal time for the bank.

BNP emerged from the financial and eurozone crises healthier than most rivals, but was hit in July by a record $8.9 billion fine for breaking U.S. sanctions on Sudan, Libya and Cuba between 2002 and 2012.

The U.S. troubles cost several executives their job. Prot, who has been CEO or chairman at BNP for 11 years, resigned this week, satisfied the bank had stabilized after its summer of turmoil, sources said.

Lemierre fits all the criteria to chair the bank: a graduate from one of France's elite "ecoles", former head of its Treasury, a long spell running a multinational public body and then a smooth transition to the private sector six years ago.

He was a key negotiator during the talks with U.S. authorities, sources told Reuters.

Now as head of Europe's fourth biggest bank he will have more work to do to repair the damage. BNP is banned from conducting some U.S. dollar transactions next year and is only six months into a new plan to kick-start earnings and improve profitability in the next three years by expanding in countries such as the United States and Poland.   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