New York's top banking regulator Benjamin Lawsky is pressing BNP Paribas SA to dismiss one of its top executives as part of settlement negotiations with the U.S. over alleged sanctions violations, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Lawsky wants the bank to remove Chief Operating Officer Georges Chodron de Courcel, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private. Lawsky is also seeking the departure of another senior executive and about 12 other bank employees, the person added. Chodron de Courcel and the others haven't been accused of wrongdoing.
U.S. authorities are said to be seeking as much as $10 billion -- a record criminal penalty -- over BNP's dealings in sanctioned countries including Sudan and Iran. Lawsky has said that individuals, not just companies, must be held accountable to deter future wrongdoing. He also wants to suspend BNP's dollar-clearing operations in New York, which has become a sticking point in the negotiations, a person familiar with the matter has said.
Bertrand Cizeau, a spokesman for BNP, declined to comment or to make Chodron de Courcel available for comment. Caitlin Ferrell, a spokeswoman for Lawsky, also declined to comment.
Chodron de Courcel, 64, is one of three chief operating officers at the bank and has overseen corporate and investment banking for more than a decade. He is also the chairman of BNP's Geneva-based unit, which has been a focus of the investigation, people familiar with the matter have said. Chodron de Courcel's term as COO expires in the spring of 2016 at the latest, according to BNP's statute. The board of directors can remove a COO at any time, according to the statute.
BNP declined 1.1 percent to 50.91 euros by 9:45 a.m. in Paris trading, valuing the bank at 63.4 billion euros ($86.5 billion). The stock is down 10 percent this year, compared with a 4.6 percent gain in the 43-company Bloomberg Europe Banks and Financial Services Index.
A $10 billion fine could more than wipe out this year's earnings for BNP, estimated at 5.64 billion euros by analysts. It would also represent more than three times the combined fines paid by HSBC Holdings Plc, Standard Chartered Plc and ING Groep NV in 2012 for sanctions violations.
Concern over the size of the fines under discussion for BNP and its potential impact on the French economy and financial system led President Francois Hollande to raise the issue with his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama at a dinner in Paris last night. Obama had told reporters earlier in the day in Brussels that "the tradition of the United States is that the president does not meddle in prosecutions."