The Justice Department has announced a deal with French bank BNP Paribas to pay up to $8.8bn to settle charges that it hid $30bn in transactions that violated US sanctions against countries like Iran and Sudan. The bank will also be barred from clearing any financial transactions in dollars for a year starting in January.
BNP Paribas is not alone. Large financial institutions seem to routinely violate US securities laws, with such reliable frequency that plenty of observers have questioned whether these institutions can ever be properly managed. Headlines about these crimes chronically dip out, like a leaky faucet that never gets fixed: about rigged commodities, energy and currency markets, manipulated interest rates, illegal money laundering, abuse of homeowners. The business pages read like a police blotter. Even former Treasury secretary Timothy Geithner acknowledged in a recent interview that the run-up to the crisis featured “an appalling amount of fraud and abuse”, and since 2008 the crime wave has apparently run unabated.