The WSJ Suggests Hollande May Redefine Chutzpah by Complaining to Obama about BNP Paribas – on the 70th Anniversary of D-Day!

By William K. Black

I am not a French hater – and there is no “but” to that clause.  The Wall Street Journal, however, frequently engages in French bashing.  The WSJ has also, unintentionally and unknowingly, suggested that the French may act in a manner that would provide a new humorous answer to the old joke that begins: “What is chutzpah?”  The context is that the U.S. and New York state authorities are negotiating with BNP Paribas (a very large French bank) to settle a series of felonies involving primarily sanction-busting – and covering up those crimes.

A political movement has arisen in France opposing any U.S. criminal actions against Paribas.  Americans will have no difficulty understanding this political dynamic, particularly because our Department of Justice (DOJ) continues to give a total pass to the U.S. officers who led the accounting control frauds that drove the crisis and prosecutes only foreign financial operations.  What is remarkable is the WSJ’s suggestion of how the French Prime Minister Hollande might bring French objections personally to the attention of President Obama.

“[A]ny hefty penalty imposed on BNP Paribas could revive trans-Atlantic tensions….”

“Mr. Hollande will meet with President Barack Obama next week during ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of D-Day….”

So, let me see whether I have this right.  The French goal is to avoid “reviv[ing] trans-Atlantic tensions” and the means of doing so would be for Hollande to complain to Obama about Paribas – on “the 70th anniversary of D-Day.”  I’m a strong critic of Hollande, but I don’t think he would display the chutzpah of using the anniversary of the death and grievous wounding of thousands of Americans who stormed the beaches of France to liberate that Nation from Nazi occupation as the time to complain about holding Paribas (mildly) accountable for the crimes of its officers.

If the WSJ’s current staff doesn’t recall these matters they could read what Herbert London wrote in the paper published five years ago:  “The Meaning of Bloody Omaha.”

If I am wrong about Hollande and he does have the chutzpah to raise Paribas’ case with Obama I suggest that our President say not a word in response and instead have the Secret Service drive Hollande and Obama to the cemetery above Omaha beach and hand him this excerpt from London’s column.

“There is simply no way to describe the sacrifice Americans made on the D-Day invasion to reclaim Europe from the grip of totalitarianism. Even the notoriously dispassionate Europeans realize that this is consecrated ground, a place where angels spread their wings to honor the deeds of youthful warriors. No St. Crispin speeches were necessary here, for this Band of Brothers knew what need not be stated: They were saving Europe from enslavement.

As a local Normandy resident wrote during the occupation, ‘A German lieutenant said ‘we are your masters.’ Well they were, until the Americans arrived.’”

I don’t think Hollande has forgotten what D-Day was all about, but it appears that the WSJ journalists need a remedial history course if they think Hollande would be so gauche and déclassé as to use the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of D-Day to lobby for Paribas.  We need to keep in mind that Paribas’ officers have admitted to having collaborated with “totalitarianism” – for the sole, pathetic purpose of maximizing their wealth. Even Vichy did not ally itself with the Nazis for the primary purpose of making its officials wealthy.

7 responses to “The WSJ Suggests Hollande May Redefine Chutzpah by Complaining to Obama about BNP Paribas – on the 70th Anniversary of D-Day!

  1. Whilst BNP Paribas is under the spotlight for its fraudulent behavior it’s worth understanding the implications of the following:-

    http://londonbanker.blogspot.co.uk/2011/05/concentration-manipulation-and-margin.html

    http://www.debtdeflation.com/blogs/2014/03/10/closing-the-door-on-the-gfc/

  2. James Cooley

    I wonder how many grandchildren of those Normandy veterans have had their lives put in jeopardy by the actions of the Paribas directors. I would guess more than a few.

  3. Professor Black,
    You have it right –“I don’t think Hollande has forgotten what D-Day was all about, but it appears that the WSJ journalists need a remedial history course if they think Hollande would be so gauche and déclassé as to use the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of D-Day to lobby for Paribas. We need to keep in mind that Paribas’ officers have admitted to having collaborated with “totalitarianism” – for the sole, pathetic purpose of maximizing their wealth. Even Vichy did not ally itself with the Nazis for the primary purpose of making its officials wealthy..”

    Your use of “gauche and déclassé” shows you understand the French. Thank you for your putdown of the WSJ for their “gauche and déclassé” attack on France, on behalf of a mere … “banque”! They shuffle money, have nothing to do with saving lives, nations from totalitarianism. “Au contraire”.

    Thank you, Professor Black.

  4. With all due respect but given the developents in the East from 1943 on, I have the suspicion that the Soviet armies would have been able to defeat the German ones even without the invasion in Normandy.
    So while those soldiers might have believed that they saved Europe from enslavement and totalitarianism, their sacrifice was actually made to restrict Soviet control over post-war Europe…geopolitical rather than anything else.

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  6. There’s a small error – typo – in your column. Hollande is not the Prime Minister of France; he’s the President, and, as such, appoints the Prime Minister, presently Manuel Valls. As for France, though its military collapsed in May-June 1940 (as did the British Expeditionary Force), in the First World War, for us 1914-1918, it fought hard for four long hard years and suffered 1,300,000 dead, plus many more wounded, plus the devastation of a large sector of its mining and industrial areas, and the then British Empire suffered over 1,000,o00 dead. I do not want at all to belittle the US contribution to the defence of democracy – it was magnificent and obviously essential – but one should perhaps remember that other peoples have also sacrificed to oppose totalitarian systems, and a great deal. As for the banks – of any nation – well, they are mischief makers, aren’t they? One bone of contention between France, Britain, and the US, in the interwar period, and which destabilized the international system and weakened the democracies in the runup to the rise of Hitler and the Second World War, and the Holocaust, was the fight over the repayment of loans made by US banks – not by the US government – to the British and French when they were, in fact, defending democracy, in the First World War, and the US had not yet entered the war.

  7. Someone should remind the WSJ of France’s significant support of the nascent America in its revolution.
    And when American’s landed on D-Day, they did not forget, but said ‘Lafayette we are here.’