Op-eds

BNP Paribas’s Sins: Op-Ed and Podcast by Professor Warde

Le Monde Diplomatique

Ibrahim Warde, adjunct professor of international business at the Fletcher School

BNP Paribas is facing fines of up to $10bn; its Swiss subsidiary has been charged with violating US sanctions against Cuba, Iran and Sudan between 2002 and 2009. This vividly illustrates how judicial practices have changed for international finance. Two other French banks, Société Générale and Crédit Agricole, are also in trouble with US authorities.

In April, President Hollande wrote to President Obama to highlight the “disproportionate nature of the planned sanctions” against BNP Paribas. Christian Noyer, governor of the Banque de France, was surprised at US law being applied to transactions that “conform to French and European rules, laws and regulations, as well as the rules laid down by the UN.”

Perhaps he would have been less surprised if he had paid closer attention to political changes. In the late 1980s, when there was much debate about US decline (particularly in relation to an up-and-coming Japan), the British political scientist Susan Strange drew attention to US “structural power”: “the power to shape and determine the structures of the global political economy within which other states, their political institutions, their economic enterprises and ... professional people have to operate.” 

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