BNP Paribas close to presenting U.S. sanctions probe findings


By Lionel Laurent

PARIS, Nov 19 (Reuters) - BNP Paribas, France'sbiggest bank, has almost completed an internal review intodollar payments that may have been made in breach of U.S.economic sanctions, saying it will now present its findings "inthe near future".

The review, which according to BNP has lasted several years,forms part of the bank's continuing negotiations with the U.S.authorities which have already imposed hefty fines on otherbanks for breaching sanctions against Iran and a number of othercountries.

"The review covers a significant volume of transactionsthat, even though they may not have been prohibited by the lawsof the countries of the bank entities that initiated them, maybe considered impermissible under U.S. regulations," BNP said inthe latest update of its annual report that was posted online onOct. 31.

"The bank is not currently able to estimate without asubstantial degree of uncertainty the specific amount or eventhe general magnitude of the possible consequences of thisreview, including in terms of fines or penalties, on its resultsof operation and financial condition."

However, BNP noted that similar probes at other banks haveresulted in the payment of "significant" fines.

At the end of 2012 BNP had set aside 1.68 billion euros forlitigation risk.

A spokeswoman for BNP declined to comment further.

BNP and smaller rival Credit Agricole both said inAugust last year that they were conducting internal reviews tocheck whether they had breached American sanctions but neitherhave said whether they concern Iran or other countries.

Last year British banks Standard Chartered and HSBC both reached settlements with the U.S.authorities over allegations that they violated the sanctions.

Standard Chartered agreed to pay a total of $627 million while HSBC settled for $1.92 billion.

A spokeswoman for Credit Agricole also declined to commentand referred Reuters to the bank's most recent update to itsannual report, which contained no reference to its own internalreview. The last update that referred to the review, fromearlier this year, said that it was impossible to tell when thereview would be completed.

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