SocGen to pay $1.3 billion to settle Libya, Libor probes

PARIS/NEW YORK (Reuters) - French bank Societe Generale SOGN.PA will pay $1.3 billion to resolve criminal and civil charges in the United States and France for bribing Gaddafi-era Libyan officials and manipulating the Libor interest rate benchmark, U.S. authorities said on Monday.

The logo of Societe Generale is pictured outside the headquarters of the French bank at the financial and business district of La Defense in Puteaux, outside Paris, France, May 16, 2018. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

The Paris-based bank is due to plead guilty in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, New York, to resolve the foreign bribery case, the Justice Department said in a statement.

Earlier on Monday, SocGen said it had agreed to pay 250 million euros ($293 million) to the French treasury as part of the overall U.S.-France settlement.

The resolution is the first coordinated between U.S. and French authorities in a foreign bribery case, the Justice Department said.

“Today’s resolution ... sends a strong message that transnational corruption and manipulation of our markets will be met with a global and coordinated law enforcement response,” John Cronan, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, said in a statement.

SocGen said in a statement that the settlement was “not expected” to affect its ability to continue serving clients and that it had taken extensive steps to strengthen its risk and compliance controls. The bank said the total penalties were already covered by a previously booked provision of 2.3 billion euros ($2.7 billion).

The Justice Department penalties include a $585 million fine relating to a multi-year scheme to pay bribes to officials in Libya and $275 million for violations arising from its manipulation of Libor, the Justice Department said.

The London interbank offered rate, known as Libor, is used as a benchmark against which rates on hundreds of trillions of dollars worth of contracts and loans are set across the world.

Societe Generale bank also agreed with the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which regulates derivatives, to pay $475 million for rigging Libor.

SocGen’s agreement to pay 250 million euros ($293 million) to the French treasury brings the bank’s total settlement to $1.3 billion.

“We regret these past misconducts, which are contrary to our values and ethical standards that led to these settlements,” Frédéric Oudéa, chief executive of Societe Generale, said in the bank’s statement, calling the settlement “an important step for the Bank.”

Between 2004 and 2009, SocGen paid more than $90 million in bribes through a Libyan broker to secure 14 investments by Libyan state-owned financial institutions, the Justice Department said.

The bank will enter into a three-year deferred prosecution agreement while its European subsidiary, SGA Société Générale Acceptance N.V., will plead guilty to one count of conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

SocGen also agreed to continue to cooperate with the Justice Department’s investigation and adopt and maintain enhanced compliance procedures, the Justice Department said.

On Monday, the Justice Department said that Maryland-based investment management firm Legg Mason Inc entered into a non-prosecution agreement to pay $64.2 million to resolve a probe of the firm’s Permal Group Ltd subsidiary. Permal had partnered with SocGen to help solicit business from the state-owned financial institutions in Libya, and Legg Mason had ultimately benefited from some of the bribes paid by SocGen, the Justice Department said.

In a letter to stakeholders on Monday, Legg Mason’s chairman and chief executive, Joseph Sullivan, said the firm was in discussions with the U.S. Securities and Exchange commission to settle civil charges on the same matter.

“The misconduct by former employees of the legacy Permal business that the government found was totally unacceptable. It violated our high standards...,” he wrote.

He said that over the last decade Legg Mason “has substantially enhanced its anti-corruption oversight, compliance policies, procedures and other related mechanisms.”

Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Karen Freifeld; Additional reportig by Emmanuel Jarry; Writing by Michelle Price in Washington; Editing by Paul Simao and Leslie Adler