France says reported multibillion dollar fine US wants against BNP Paribas is 'unreasonable'

PARIS – France’s foreign minister said a reported multibillion dollar fine that bank BNP Paribas is facing in the U.S. is unreasonable and could threaten a free-trade agreement between Europe and the United States.

BNP Paribas, France’s largest bank, set aside $1.1 billion last year after the U.S. began investigating it for alleged sanctions violations, but this spring said the fines could be “far in excess.” Its share price slumped last week after The Wall Street Journal reported the fine could be $10 billion.

“The sanction has to be proportional and reasonable. These amounts are not reasonable,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told France 2 television Tuesday.

Fabius said a massive fine could endanger the proposed free trade agreement, which he said “can only happen in a spirit of reciprocity.”

The French president’s office plans to air the issue when President Barack Obama visits this week to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.