BNP Executive Fired on U.S. Request Gets $384,000 From Bank

Updated on
  • Court says Dominique Remy was unfairly dismissed by bank
  • Remy was ‘sacrificed’ by BNP, according to his lawyer

One of the 13 executives required to leave BNP Paribas SA as part of a 2014 settlement for violating U.S. sanctions sued the bank for 6 million euros ($6.4 million) over his dismissal, but only got about $384,000.

The French lender was ordered Thursday evening to pay 360,000 euros to Dominique Remy, former head of structured finance for BNP’s corporate and investment bank, by a Paris employment tribunal, which said he was unfairly dismissed in April 2014. Remy’s bid to recoup a 900,000-euro bonus for 2013 and 1.2 million euros in deferred compensation for previous years was rejected.

BNP agreed three years ago to plead guilty to U.S. sanctions violations and pay almost $9 billion after admitting it processed that same amount between 2004 to 2012 in banned transactions involving Sudan, Iran and Cuba. As part of the settlement, New York’s top banking regulator said it required the bank to refrain from employing people including Remy and Georges Chodron de Courcel, co-chief operating officer.

Remy, who joined BNP in 1979, was “sacrificed at the altar of the multibillion-dollar settlement,” his lawyer, Marie-Alice Jourde, told the court during the hearing on the same day as the verdict. His firing caused Remy “considerable financial harm” given that he was earning about 98,000 euros a month in fixed pay, she said.

Jourde complained about the reach of U.S. law, imposed because the operations were dollar-denominated despite the fact that neither France nor the European Union had embargoes against the three countries.

‘Speed Limit’

“It’s a bit like if you buy an American car and you get a penalty when driving in France because you did not abide by the speed limit in New York,” Jourde said.

A BNP representative declined to comment on the verdict. Remy’s lawyer didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Sophie Brezin, a lawyer for BNP, said Remy knew the teams in the Energy, Commodities and Export Project unit he headed were breaking the U.S. sanctions. He had a responsibility to stop transactions linked to Sudan, Cuba and Iran, but he failed to put the proper procedures in place, she said.

Worse, he and his teams sought to conceal the violations by using satellite banks or removing references to Sudan, the BNP lawyer said. Remy ignored alerts, and warnings from the compliance department, according to Brezin.

“He wanted to continue this fruitful activity and wanted to get the bonuses,” she said.

“Instead of suing at the employment tribunal, it is a letter of thanks and an apology that he should have sent to BNP,” Brezin said. She said Remy was let off lightly -- without a finding of gross misconduct and with a 932,000-euro dismissal pay off -- considering his responsibility in this “very painful affair for the bank.”

Jourde sought to shift blame onto Remy’s bosses Chodron de Courcel and former BNP Chief Executive Officer Baudouin Prot, who she said was the architect behind “the setting up of a Cuba unit right in the middle of the embargo.” In relation to Sudan, where most of the prohibited transactions took place, Jourde said there’s written proof Remy asked to stop all operations but Chodron de Courcel opposed the move.

Bankers routinely turn, with varying degrees of success, to specialist labor courts throughout Europe to recoup lost bonuses and rehabilitate tarnished reputations. Another BNP manager fired amid the U.S. sanctions violations probe asked last year the Paris employment tribunal for about 2.8 million euros in compensation after he said he was “sacrificed” by the bank. The Paris court was unable to reach a verdict and sent the case to a higher court, which has yet to rule on the matter.

— With assistance by Fabio Benedetti Valentini

(Adds details of the ruling starting in second paragraph.)
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