Guilty BNP asks for regulatory relief

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BNP Paribas SA (EPA:BNP) has applied for a regulatory exemption it needs to be able to keep managing U.S. pension-plan assets following its guilty plea for violating U.S. sanctions.

The French bank sought the exemption June 30, according to Michael Trupo, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Labor, which oversees $7.9 trillion in pensions. BNP pleaded guilty the same day to processing almost $9 billion in banned transactions from 2004 to 2012 involving Sudan, Iran and Cuba and agreed to pay a $8.97 billion penalty.

If granted, the exemption would enable the bank to keep its status as a qualified professional asset manager, or QPAM, a key designation for institutions overseeing pension assets.

The bank managed $66 billion in assets in the U.S., including pension funds, endowments, foundations and other institutions as of December 2012, according to its website, which doesn’t specify how much is represented by pensions. Cesaltine Gregorio, a spokeswoman for BNP Paribas, confirmed that the bank had filed an exemption request.

Credit Suisse Group AG, whose main banking unit pleaded guilty May 19 to helping Americans evade taxes, has also applied to the Labor Department to keep its QPAM status. The Labor Department said at the time that it is no “rubber stamp” and declined to say when it would issue a decision. The department doesn’t have an estimate on when it will rule on BNP Paribas’ request, according to Trupo.

The Labor Department must rule in favor of extending a bank’s QPAM status before sentencing, or it is automatically revoked. Credit Suisse’s sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 12. BNP Paribas, which doesn’t yet have a sentencing date, said yesterday it will retain its licenses and expects no impact on its operational or business capabilities other than a year-long ban on some dollar-clearing operations.

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