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Commerzbank to pay $1.45B, fire workers in US deal

Commerzbank will pay $1.45 billion to settle claims that transactions with certain clients ran afoul of U.S. sanctions and money laundering laws.

The German bank will fire employees involved in the alleged violations and install an independent monitor as part of the settlement with U.S. and New York regulators, the New York Department of Financial Services said on Thursday.

Commerzbank has adjusted last year's net profit to $280 million (264 million euro) from the $638 million (602 million euro) it previously reported.

"We take these violations very seriously and deeply regret the actions that led to today's announcements," Commerzbank CEO Martin Blessing said in a statement.

"We have made, and will continue to make, changes to our systems, training and personnel to address the deficiencies identified by U.S. and New York authorities," he continued.

Benjamin Lawsky, superintendent of the New York State Department of Financial Services.
Mike Segar | Reuters

U.S. officials say Commerzbank excluded information that identified certain clients as Iranian or Sudanese entities subject to U.S. sanctions. The bank used these measures in 60,000 U.S. dollar clearing transactions worth more than $253 billion, regulators said.

Officials also say that internal shortcomings led to the bank's New York branch allowing transactions that facilitated accounting fraud by Olympus, a Japanese optics and medical device manufacturer.

"What is especially disturbing is that employees sought to alter the bank's transaction monitoring system so that it would create fewer 'red flag' alerts about potential misconduct, which highlights a potential broader problem in the banking industry," said Benjamin Lawsky, superintendent of financial services for New York, in a release.

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The bank did not immediately respond to CNBC's request to comment on the deal.

The settlement follows last year's $8.9 billion deal between regulators and French bank BNP Paribas over transactions with U.S.-sanctioned entities.