Pourquoi le harcèlement de BNP Paribas ?

CAMBRIDGE – Aux yeux des Européens avec qui je parle, l’amende de 8,9 milliards de dollars imposée à la société de services financiers française BNP Paribas pour avoir violé les sanctions américaines contre Cuba, l'Iran et le Soudan semble excessive. Certes, BNP a fait quelque chose de grave. Mais 8,9 milliards de dollar ? N'est-ce pas extrêmement disproportionné pour une banque par ailleurs très responsable ? Le président français François Hollande a demandé au président américain Barack Obama d’intervenir en vue d’une réduction de l'amende, tout comme le commissaire de l'Union européenne pour le marché intérieur et les services, Michel Barnier.

L'amende est en effet beaucoup plus élevée que celles imposées précédemment. Il n’est pas neuf que de lourdes amendes existent pour des violations de commerce de devises (HSBC, par exemple, a été frappée d’une amende de 1,9 milliards de dollars en 2012); mais une amende de près de 10 milliards de dollars est du jamais vu.

Trois facteurs, qui ne sont pas tous présents dans les discussions actuelles, semblent expliquer la taille de la peine. Tout d'abord, l'infraction de BNP faisait partie d'un modèle de comportement délibéré et répété. Deuxièmement, le règlement est intervenu à un moment où les autorités américaines faisaient face à de vives critiques pour avoir été trop mou face aux grandes banques pendant et après la crise financière de 2008. Enfin, et de manière plus spéculative, l'effort des États-Unis pour faire de la finance un outil de politique étrangère plus efficace aurait pu influencer le traitement réservé à la BNP.

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