The Federal Reserve Board has levied a $246 million civil penalty against BNP Paribas S.A. and its U.S. subsidiaries for “unsafe and unsound practices” related to manipulating foreign currency rates.
The Fed’s action on Monday follows a May 24 fine announced against BNPP by the New York State Department of Financial Services for $350 million relating to the same issue. This brings the total penalty to $596 million.
The misconduct, which lasted from 2007 to 2013, involved at least a dozen BNPP employees in New York and other key foreign exchange trading hubs, including London and Tokyo, according to a consent order. All the employees involved have either been terminated, resigned or otherwise disciplined. One has pleaded guilty to criminal charges.
The investigation found that for many years, a number of foreign exchange traders from several banks participated in multiparty chat rooms where they engaged in a variety of collusive misconduct.
In a statement released Monday, the bank said: “BNP Paribas deeply regrets the past misconduct which was a clear breach of the high standards on which the group operates.
“BNP Paribas has proactively implemented extensive measures to strengthen its systems of control and compliance,” the statement continued. “The group has increased resources and staff dedicated to these functions, conducted extensive staff training and launched a new code of conduct which applies to all staff.”
A representative at the U.S. branch of BNPP in New York had no additional comment beyond the statement.
The Fed’s 15-page consent order requires BNPP to have “an effective and comprehensive compliance risk management framework that includes strong governance over compliance risk at all levels of management, appropriate policies and procedures, rigorous surveillance and escalation mechanisms, and staff training programs that thoroughly address compliance risks.”
It contains a lengthy list of reforms, including implementing an internal audit program with a periodic review of risk assessments.
The bank is already making enhancements to its compliance systems, has fully cooperated with the Fed, and must “provide substantial assistance” in further investigations and enforcement actions against individuals, according to the order.
BNPP is the world’s fifth-largest bank, with a presence in 74 countries and more than 192,000 employees, primarily in Europe. It has major operations in France, Italy, Belgium and Luxembourg.
The order was signed for the company by a trio of general counsel: Georges Dirani, GC of BNP Paribas S.A.; Peter Cooke, GC of BNP Paribas USA Inc.; and Andrew Alter, GC of BNP Paribas Securities Corp. Attorney David Esseks, a partner at Allen & Overy in New York, represented the company.
Ann Misback, secretary of the Fed’s Board of Governors, signed for the agency. Misback, who started with the Fed as a senior attorney in the legal division in 1992, just became secretary in April, replacing Robert deV. Frierson. Frierson, who retired after 30 years with the agency, also had started as an attorney in the legal division.