BNP Banker Fired Amid American Sanctions Case Seeks $3.5 Million

• De Gentile says was unfairly put on black list to appease U.S.
• Former top exec seeks $3.5 million in Paris employment lawsuit

A BNP Paribas SA executive fired after 36 years at the company said he was unfairly put on a “blacklist” to appease American authorities during their probe into sanctions violations that cost the French bank about $9 billion.

Philippe de Gentile, former head of structured finance in the bank’s Geneva office, was dismissed for a bogus reason and should be awarded 2.8 million euros ($3.5 million) in compensation, his lawyer told a judge at the Paris employment tribunal on Wednesday.

“A few had to be sacrificed because that was the nature of the deal” with the U.S. to settle a case into allegations that France’s largest bank violated sanctions, Chantal Giraud-van Gaver, said at a hearing. A panel of four non-professional judges decided in 2016 to forward the case to the judge afterfailing to reach a verdict. The court is set to rule on June 7.

BNP agreed four years ago to plead guilty to U.S. violations and pay almost $9 billion after admitting it processed that same amount from 2004 to 2012 in banned transactions involving Sudan, Iran and Cuba. As part of the settlement, New York’s top banking regulator said it required the bank to refrain from employing people including de Gentile’s boss Dominique Remy and Georges Chodron de Courcel, co-chief operating officer.

Bankers routinely turn to specialist labor courts throughout Europe to recoup lost bonuses and rehabilitate tarnished reputations. Last year, Remy asked the Paris employment tribunal for about 6 million euros in compensation but only got about 360,000 euros.

De Gentile’s dismissal letter alleges that in 2012 he failed to transmit information concerning a client file that could contravene U.S. sanctions. The bank “has nothing of substance on the facts so it says de Gentile has communication problems with his teams,” Giraud-van Gaver told the court.

BNP’s lawyer, Aurelie Fournier, said the information de Gentile failed to relay to his hierarchy was “extremely sensitive” and justifies his firing.

Ahead of de Gentile’s dismissal, the bank had even tried to find a solution that would be acceptable for him and the bank, she said.

“BNP couldn’t let de Gentile stay on as head of the Swiss territory given the circumstances,” Fournier said. “It was impossible.”

But de Gentile acted as an opportunist, declining to take on a different role with less responsibility but equivalent remuneration, the lawyer suggested.

“De Gentile had done the math,” Fournier said. He preferred refusing the post and getting severance pay of 545,000 euros net rather than leaving a year later with less than 100,000 euros in retirement compensation, she told the judge.

As part of his 2.8 million-euro demand, the Frenchman is seeking 500,000 euros to make up for the psychological damage caused by his unfair dismissal, his lawyer said.

“He ended in dishonor,” Giraud-van Gaver said. “The way the bank treated him given his personal investment and achievements is disloyal and must be compensated with damages.”

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Gaspard Sebag in Paris at
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Christopher Elser, Ross Larsen