Major French Bank to Pay $1Bln in US Suit Over Bribing Libyan Officials, Fraud

June 6, 2018

The US Department of Justice has been prosecuting foreign firms accused of bribery outside of the US for some while, but this is the first time a resolution has been reached jointly by US and French authorities.

US Department of Justice has issued a statement on June 4 saying that French bank Societe Generale (SocGen) and its subsidiary SGA Societe Generale Acceptance have admitted their guilt in paying $90 million in bribes to Libyan officials between 2004 and 2009 and manipulating the London InterBank Offered Rate (LIBOR), one of the world's 'leading benchmark interest rates.' The companies also agreed to pay more than $860 million in penalties based on the illegal gains, obtained by the bank in the result of these violations.

'For years, Societe Generale undermined the integrity of global markets and foreign institutions by issuing false financial data and by fraudulently securing contracts through bribery,' Acting Assistant Attorney General Cronan said, commenting on the reached resolution.

He also added that the SocGen case sent 'a strong message' to those involved in transnational corruption and manipulations that their actions would be met 'with a global and coordinated law enforcement response.'

The statement by the US authorities also noted that since the resolution was reached jointly with French officials half of the money that SocGen is to pay in fines, would be transferred to the Parquet National Financier (PNF), a French regulator tasked with fighting major economic and financial crimes. This was the first time France and the US acted jointly in resolving international bribery case, the official statement said.

Apart from $860 million, the bank will have to pay extra $475 million to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) for its manipulations with LIBOR, which raises total penalties to over $1 billion.

SocGen was prosecuted under the provisions of a 1977 US law — Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits any entity that has connections with the US to be involved in bribery even outside the US in order to gain economic benefits. The law has been undergoing revision since 2012, when concerns were aroused that it may discourage US firms from investing abroad.

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