Federal prosecutors at last made good on their promise to get a guilty plea out of a major bank yesterday, as BNP Paribas agreed to a record fine of almost $9 billion for violating US sanctions. The bank, the biggest in France, "perpetrated what was truly a Tour de Fraud," said US Attorney Preet Bharara. The company allegedly cleared $190 billion for Sudan, Iran, and Cuba, the Wall Street Journal explains, but regulators could only prove $9 billion of those transactions were criminal. Had they taken BNP to court, they could have sought a fine twice as large.
None of BNP's individual employees have been charged, though the bank has fired 13 of them and disciplined 45 in some fashion. The Justice Department said the bank had effectively shielded them by being unwilling to cooperate sooner. This is just the beginning for the Justice Department, which intends to pursue a similar strategy against two other major French banks—Credit Agricole and Societe Generale—plus Germany's Deutsche Bank and Citigroup's Mexican unit Banamex, sources tell Reuters. (Read more BNP Paribas stories.)