BNP Paribas S.A. is a French international banking group. It is the world's 8th largest bank by total assets, and currently operates with a presence in 72 countries.
It was formed through the merger of Banque Nationale de Paris (BNP) and Paribas in 2000, but has a corporate identity stretching back to its first foundation in 1848 as a national bank. It is one of three major international French banks, along with Société Générale and Crédit Agricole.
After the end of the Second World War, the French state decided to "put banks and credit to work for national reconstruction", and the bank was nationalized. The bank was re-privatised in 1993 under the leadership of Michel Pébereau as part of a second Chirac government's privatization policy.
The Biggest 'Fine' in history
On 30 May 2014, BNP Paribas agreed to a guilty plea with the United States Department of Justice for violating U.S. regulations and evading unilateral US sanctions - sanctions that were not imposed by the EU or France.
The US Justice Department sought a fine of more than US $10 billion, which was reduced to 8.97 billion in negotiations. BNP Paribas was said to have laundered up to US$100 million from the sanctioned countries of Sudan, Iran, and Cuba, which is illegal in the US, but not in France or the EU. BNP Paribas was also barred for one year under the plea agreement from certain US dollar-dominated transactions.
The US government was using the case to punish France for selling 2 Mistral amphibious assault ships to Russia, in a $1.5 billion contract, which the US pushed for France to cancel after the Crimea sanctions were imposed in 2014.
In September 2010, BNP Paribas, along with ten other banks, were fined 381.1 million euros by the Conseil de la Concurrence. The banks had made an appointment to charge their customers 4.3 cents per check from January 2002 to July 2007 in order to make extra profits. This affected 80% of the checks used in France. Until 2002 check transactions in France were free of charge. After the intervention of the banking regulator, which called the profits "illegal", this practice was ended. The banks in this cartel were also fined 3.8 million euros for excessive fees. According to the Conseil de la Concurrence, BNP played a leading role in the cartel, which is why its sentence was 10% higher. It was increased by a further 20% since BNP had already been sentenced in 2000 for anti-competition.