BNP Paribas: what about Prot ?

Question Mark

The name missing from BNP Paribas's grovelling statement of "deep regret" for busting US sanctions was that of Baudouin Prot, the bank's current chairman and former long-serving chief executive.

It was left to Jean-Laurent Bonnafé, the current chief executive, to state that the actions ran "contrary to the principles on which BNP Paribas has sought to operate".

Hold on, though. Prot was the boss charged with upholding those principles for most of the period in which the offences took place, 2002-12. Shouldn't he be the fellow performing the show of humility, regardless of BNP's decent record in the financial crisis? Indeed, shouldn't he just have resigned?

The answer is that the notion of an honourable resignation is as alien to BNP Paribas as it is to banks elsewhere. It is said that Prot issued an edict in 2007 that the bank should not process dollar transactions for clients in Sudan, Iran and Cuba but his orders were ignored. So what? Surely there is a duty on a chief executive to ensure that his instructions are followed if failure can lead to an $8.9bn bill.

Instead, the most senior head to roll is that of George Chodron de Courcel, the chief operating officer. His scalp was demanded by US regulators, specifically the New York department of financial services, which says it directed that 13 individuals be "terminated by or separated from" the bank.

But BNP Paribas could not even bring itself to link Chodron de Courcel's departure to the sanctions scandal. We were told last month that he was retiring to comply with a new restriction on the number of boardroom posts a banking executive can hold. Feeble stuff.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Nils Pratley, for The Guardian on Tuesday 1st July 2014 23.42 Europe/London

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