By: Brooke Driver
The French bank BNP Paribas SA has agreed to pay $8.97 billion for its (get ready for this number) 3,897 apparent violations of the Sudanese Sanctions Regulations, Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations, Cuban Assets Control Regulations and Burmese Sanction Regulations, a record breaking penalty for American sanctions violations. The enormity and global nature of the case prompted collaboration between OFAC, the U.S. Department of Justice, the New York County District Attorney’s Office, the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and the Department of Financial Services of the State of New York in the process of investigating BNPP’s violations and arriving at an appropriate consequence.
For a number of years prior to and including 2012, BNPP processed—and concealed—thousands of transactions to or through U.S. financial institutions involving parties subject to the aforementioned sanctions programs. In executing these illegal transactions, BNPP concealed, removed, omitted or obscured references to the sanctioned parties in related paperwork.
Specifically, between the dates of September 6, 2005 and July 24, 2009, BNPP processed 2,663 wire transfers totaling approximately $8,370,372,624 involving Sudanese entities, 318 wire transfers with a total value of $1,182,075,543 involving Iranian entities between July 15, 2005 and November 27, 2012, seven wire transfers for Burmese parties (totaling $1,478,371) between November 3, 2005 and sometime in May 2009 and 909 Cuba-related wire transfers between July 18, 2005 and September 10, 2012 with a total value of $689,237,183. The severity of the fine and year-long ban from conducting certain U.S. dollar transactions is a clear message to other financial institutions that might not take U.S. sanctions seriously.
OFAC claims that the settlement amount reflects the following factors:
- BNPP had knowledge that its conduct might have violated U.S. law
- At least one member of BNPP senior management and multiple supervisors were aware of the company’s illegal conduct
- The violations are numerous and span many years
- The illegal transactions were large monetary transfers
- BNPP had not received a violation notice in the five years leading up to the settlement
- BNPP cooperated with OFAC’s investigation
- BNPP has taken remedial action to prevent further U.S. sanctions violations