U.S. Markets open in 7 hrs 37 mins

French prosecutors seek trial for BPCE chairman Perol

Francois Perol, BPCE group and Natixis Chairman, arrives for the company's 2011 annual results presentation in Paris February 23, 2012. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

PARIS (Reuters) - French state prosecutors are seeking trial for Francois Perol, chairman of France's second-biggest retail bank, BPCE, who had been under judicial investigation to determine if his nomination to head the group in 2009 represented a conflict of interest.

The French prosecutor's office, contacted by Reuters, said on Friday that Perol risks two years' imprisonment and a 30,000 euro ($37,000) fine. It is now up to an investigating judge to decide whether or not to send Perol, who worked for former President Nicolas Sarkozy before being appointed to the bank, to trial.

French law prohibits public servants being hired by companies over which they have had direct authority.

A lawyer for Perol, who denies any wrongdoing, declined to comment when contacted by Reuters regarding the prosecutors' trial recommendation. A BPCE spokeswoman declined to comment.

Perol, Sarkozy's former economic adviser, was appointed to head BPCE in 2009 after it was formed by a state-backed merger of regional banks Banque Populaire and Caisse d'Epargne aimed at preventing their investment banking business Natixis (CNAT.PA) from collapsing during the financial crisis.

He has faced repeated criticism from trade unions, who have said his work for the government included advising on the merger of major retail banks and that this makes him unsuitable for the role.

Perol is also currently chairman of the French Banking Federation.

(Reporting by Chine Labbe; Additional reporting by Matthias Blamont; Writing by Maya Nikolaeva; Editing by Brian Love and Pravin Char)