BNP Personal Finance, a subsidiary of BNP Paribas, was ordered to pay tens of millions of euros for its practices during the sale of toxic Swiss franc loans Helvet Immo. Rarely, the judge decided on the provisional execution of his decision with the “Compensation for damages recognized” to the victims and to UFC-Que Choisir, the civil party in the trial.
No, the saver is not necessarily an avid speculator who complains when the stock market crashes! This image is what the BNP Paribas branch would have wanted the judges of the Paris Criminal Court to believe. But this is not the opinion that the latter maintained in the case of the sale of Swiss franc loans by Helvet Immo. Through its subsidiary BNP Personal Finance (BNP-PF), in 2008 and 2009 the group marketed home loans contracted in Swiss francs but repayable in euros, assuring borrowers that the euro / Swiss franc rate was very stable. As a result, some 4,600 borrowers became trapped by the rise in the Swiss franc, which rose 60% against the euro in five years. The court just heavily convicted BNP-PF for “Misleading marketing practices” And “concealment of this crime”. The bank must pay substantial damages to savers (tens of thousands of euros according to the documents) and to three consumer protection associations, including UFC-Que Choisir who was a civil party in the trial. The bank has ten days to appeal. A decision by the Court of Cassation in a closed case, this time concerning Crédit Agricole, nevertheless bodes well for borrowers.
Deception is also what Nathalie Chevallier had bravely denounced. At the time of the commercialization of the loans, the latter was regional director of BNP Personal Finance Île-de-France. In 2015, she agreed to speak to reporters and then testify in court. “ J‘alertedstar my hierarchy on the risks of this product, thus declared on 17 September 2015 to the investigating judge Claire Thépaut. As a result, she is under pressure from her bosses to keep quiet. A testimony that certainly weighed in yesterday’s conviction of the bank. Other documents revealed in particular by What to choose they also showed that, contrary to the speeches made by BNP-PF’s sales representatives to customers on the “safety” of the product, the bank was fully aware of the significant risks it was exposing it to.
Compensation for the defense of the general interest
This judgment is emblematic for two reasons. It not only recognizes that financial institutions can design products that are themselves misleading, without the individual’s good faith being sought. This point is fundamental at a time when finance is increasingly asking financial engineers to develop very complex products in which even a slightly informed consumer no longer understands anything! In addition, by granting record compensation (1 million euros!) To two consumer associations involved in the trial, the judges stressed the importance of their role in the defense of savers, in the name of the general interest. In this particular case, What to choose launched the alert in 2011, relaunching that the subsidiary of BNP Paribas had carried out a speculation operation behind consumers! UFC-Que Choisir seized the Paris TGI in 2013, as part of a voluntary intervention, before filing a civil action in the criminal trial in 2015. The association now receives € 1 million in damages for the defense of the collective interest of consumers.