Obama on Potential Punishment for French Bank: 'I'll Read About it in the Newspapers'

'The tradition of the United States is that the president does not meddle in prosecutions'

France Steps in Over Fears of US Fine Against Bank (Associated Press)

A potential multibillion-dollar U.S. fine against France's largest bank is clouding a dinner Thursday between the French leader and President Barack Obama — and has the potential to reverberate across Europe's financial sector.

Investigators in New York and Washington are scrutinizing BNP Paribas' currency transactions through its New York office for clients in Iran, Sudan and Cuba in violation of U.S. trade sanctions between 2002 and 2009. Two other French banks are under separate investigations for similar activities, and the resulting fines could have repercussions on other companies that do business with those countries as well as the United States.

BNP recently warned it could face fines "far in excess" of the $1.1 billion it had set aside in response to the American investigation, and its shares have fallen more than 15 percent since February. As of Thursday, no amount for the fine had been fixed.

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