WASHINGTON — A unit of one of France's largest banks, Societe Generale, is pleading guilty in the U.S. and the bank is paying a $585 million fine for bribing Libyan officials to win government investments. The bank also is paying $750 million to settle U.S. charges of manipulating a key global interest rate.
The actions were announced by the U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Under an agreement with the Justice Department, Societe Generale will avoid criminal prosecution on charges of manipulating the London interbank offered rate, or LIBOR, and will pay a $275 million fine. The bank is paying a $475 million civil penalty in a separate settlement with the CFTC.
The Justice Department said it was the first coordinated resolution with France in a foreign bribery case.
The action "sends a strong message that transnational corruption and manipulation of our markets will be met with a global and coordinated law enforcement response," Acting Assistant Attorney General John Cronan said in a statement.
The LIBOR rate is used to set lending rates for trillions of dollars in transactions around the world, including mortgages, bonds and consumer loans. A number of major international banks already have paid settlements totaling billions of dollars in the rate-rigging scandal that broke in 2012. Units of JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup, Britain's Barclays, Switzerland's UBS and Germany's Deutsche Bank also have signed deferred prosecution agreements.
The bank's subsidiary SGA Societe Generale Acceptance NV will plead guilty Tuesday in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, to violating U.S. laws against foreign bribery between 2004 and 2009, during the regime of Moammar Gadhafi.
In addition, Societe Generale signed a deferred prosecution agreement on related charges of conspiracy and transmitting false reports.
Societe Generale paid a Libyan broker more than $90 million to funnel bribes to high-level Libyan officials in exchange for investments from Libyan state agencies in Societe Generale, the Justice Department said. It said the bank secured investments totaling some $3.7 billion and reaped $523 million in profits from the scheme.
In a statement, Paris-based Societe Generale said it "has already taken extensive steps in recent years to strengthen its overall compliance and control framework, which is intended to meet the highest industry standards of compliance and ethics."
Among its commitments, the bank said it will ensure that its policies and internal controls are designed to prevent violations of anti-bribery and market manipulation laws.