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Opinion
Leonid Bershidsky

U.S. Shouldn't Weaponize the Mighty Dollar

A possible ban on dollar clearing at BNP Paribas is a dangerous punishment.
About those dollars . . . . 
About those dollars . . . . 

It's not the projected size of the fine -- $8 billion to $9 billion. It's not even the demand to fire specific employees. No, as BNP Paribas prepares to settle claims by U.S. authorities that it has transacted some $30 billion worth of business in violation of U.S. international sanctions, the part of the settlement most likely to stick in Gallic throats (and cause a bit of choking elsewhere) is a ban on clearing dollar transactions.

The largest French bank, with about $119 billion in capital, BNP Paribas won't buckle under the fine. It can survive the departure of some staff, too, even Georges Chodron de Courcel, its aristocratic titan and well-connected Chief Operating Officer. If a bank has more than 14,000 employees in the U.S. -- as BNP Paribas does -- it's perfectly reasonable for U.S. authorities to demand a lot of cash and personnel changes when that bank breaks U.S. laws.