Monday 30 June 2014 5:48 pm

As BNP Paribas receives a $8.9bn fine, can US authorities be accused of protectionism?

John Mann, Labour MP for Bassetlaw, says Yes.

BNP Paribas has pleaded guilty to significant wrongdoing.

But while US authorities may have levied large fines on US banks, by suspending BNP’s ability to handle some US dollar clearing, they have removed a major competitor from the market.

The US Justice Department has fined non-US based banks $11.5bn in the past two years, as Obama and his allies look to appease outspoken Congressional critics who believe not enough has been done to hold banks to account for their previous transgressions.

Banks must play by the rules, and I support action against those who break the law.

But this latest case is another example of US protectionism, as the bank has not only been fined but crucially has had its ability to handle certain US dollar clearing suspended. I cannot imagine a European regulator taking such a hostile approach to a non EU-based bank and a US administration allowing it.

Julian Perlmutter, a US securities partner in the corporate group at Simmons & Simmons, says No.

The global banking industry has certainly been getting heavy regulatory scrutiny, and regulators in the United States are famously assertive.

Further, as a practical matter, it’s true that US regulators hold disproportionate power over non-US banks due to the significance to the global economy of the US banking system and the US dollar.

Nevertheless, given the huge fines that US regulators have recently imposed on US banks in other contexts, it seems far-fetched to suggest that US regulators are selectively pursuing non-US banks to protect US banks from foreign competition.

The scope of the US sanctions regime certainly merits further debate. Nevertheless, if a US bank were found to have broken the rules, I’m confident that it would face considerable punishment.

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