Crédit Agricole just agreed to pay $787.3 million to settle charges that it violated the U.S. sanctions on Iran and other countries by stripping references to those countries in communications sent to U.S. banks to process dollar-based transactions. And to quote Yogi Berra: “It’s déjà vu all over again.”
The payment is divided up as follows: $385 million to the New York State Department of Financial Services, $156 million to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, $156 million to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, and $90.3 million to the Federal Reserve. Once again the biggest chunk of change goes to the NYDFS which, as you probably know, doesn’t have the power to enforce any U.S. sanctions inasmuch as it’s just a state agency, notwithstanding its own delusions of grandeur.
But wait a minute. Where is OFAC in all this? I mean, after all, the last time I checked the Iran, Cuba and Sudan sanctions all had OFAC’s name written all over them. Well, OFAC announced today at the same time a $329.5 million fine against Crédit Agricole. Is that on top of the $787.3 million, pushing the fine over $1 billion? Nope. Read the fine print at the end of the OFAC press release:
CA-CIB’s $329,593,585 settlement with OFAC will be deemed satisfied by the bank’s payment of that amount to DOJ, DANY, and the Board of Governors for the same pattern of conduct.
As noted above, out of the $787.3 million, $402.3 million dollars is going to DOJ (through the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia), the DANY and the Federal Reserve, more than enough to satisfy the OFAC penalty under this somewhat odd arrangement. But it is not completely insignificant that OFAC did not say that payments to the NYDFS would discharge the OFAC penalty, perhaps indicating a bit of pique by OFAC with NYDFS trying to cash in on violations of OFAC rules.
In this context, an email that Reuters obtained back in June from OFAC to NYDFS in reference to an unnamed investigation of a foreign bank (presumably Crédit Agricole) by NYDFS was not very nice at all.
Given the ongoing negotiations, the situation regarding Iran is extremely sensitive at the moment. As a result, any actions that are taken in connection with sanctions violations pertaining to Iran may have serious impacts on the ongoing negotiations and U.S. foreign policy goals and objectives. The Iranians are not going to distinguish between enforcement actions taken at the state level versus enforcement actions taken at the federal level.”
One has to assume that the NYDFS, driven to feed its addiction to federal sanctions money, gave a terse and impolite response to OFAC that can’t be printed in a family blog, which explains the oddity of OFAC settlement in this case. I think we can safely assume that NYDFS isn’t being invited to OFAC’s holiday party this year.