October 23, 2015

DOJ Catch of the Week — Crédit Agricole

By the C|C Whistleblower Lawyer Team

This week’s Department of Justice “Catch of the Week” goes to Paris-based Crédit Agricole Corporate and Investment Bank, owned by Crédit Agricole S.A.  On Tuesday, the company, which operates in over thirty countries, agreed to forfeit $312 million and enter into a deferred prosecution agreement with the US Attorney’s Office of the District of Columbia for violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the Trading With the Enemy Act.  The bank also entered into settlement agreements with the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the New York County District Attorney’s Office and the New York State Department of Financial Services.  In total, Crédit Agricole will pay $787.3 million in criminal and civil financial penalties.  See DOJ Press Release.

Between August 2003 and September 2008, Crédit Agricole subsidiaries in Geneva knowingly moved approximately $312 million through the US financial system on behalf of sanctioned entities located in Sudan, Burma, Iran and Cuba.  To facilitate these illegal transactions, these subsidiaries used deceptive practices which prevented the government, Crédit Agricole’s New York branch and other US financial institutions from filtering for, and consequently blocking or rejecting, the sanctioned payments.  According to court documents, Crédit Agricole’s employees, including compliance personnel, were aware of the US sanctions and that they applied to payments the bank sent through the US, but they authorized the payments anyway.

In announcing the settlements, the government stressed the importance of complying with US sanctions law.  According to US Attorney Channing D. Phillips of the District of Columbia, “[s]anctions laws are critical to both our national security and foreign policy interests.  Although [Crédit Agricole] moved quickly to end these unlawful transactions and fully cooperated with investigators, today’s resolution demonstrates that there will be significant consequences for any financial institution that allows its foreign subsidiaries that do not intend to respect U.S. law to, nevertheless, access the U.S. financial system.”  Assistant Director Joseph S. Campbell of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division echoed this strong sentiment.  “The financial penalties imposed on Crédit Agricole Corporate and Investment Bank send a powerful message to any financial institution that prioritizes profits over adherence to the law.”

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