BNP Paribas could be facing one of the largest-ever fines levied against a bank.
The U.S. Department of Justice is seeking a penalty exceeding $10 billion in order to settle a criminal investigation of the French bank, according to The Wall Street Journal, which cites anonymous sources close to the matter. BNP is being probed for allegedly conducting business with countries facing U.S. sanctions, including Iran. Government prosecutors are also reportedly trying to wrangle a guilty plea out of BNP over its ignorance of the sanctions.
A spokesman for the Criminal Division of the DOJ declined to comment on the Journal article. BNP also declined to discuss the reported fine.
BNP said last month that it was worried the eventual penalties would dwarf the $1.1 billion the bank had put aside to cover any fines related to the investigation. The Journal notes that the final settlement with the DOJ is still weeks away, and that BNP is hoping to keep the penalty under the $8 billion mark. Also up for negotiation is whether or not the DOJ will temporarily rescind BNP's ability to transfer funds in and out of the U.S. as part of any settlement.
The harsh penalties BNP is facing are part of the U.S. government's attempts to take an aggressive stance when it comes to punishing large financial institutions. Last week, Credit Suisse agreed to plead guilty to criminal tax charges and pay a $2.6 billion fine in order to settle the DOJ's probe into whether the Swiss bank had willingly helped Americans avoid paying taxes.