European Parliament Votes to Adopt SSM

On 12 September 2013, the European Parliament published a press release announcing the adoption of a package of legislative acts to set up a Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM) for the Eurozone.  The SSM legislation was adopted with very large majorities and will bring the EU’s largest banks under the direct oversight of the European Central Bank (ECB) from September 2014.

The SSM legislation consists of a proposed regulation conferring specific tasks on the European Central Bank concerning policies relating to the prudential supervision of credit institutions and a proposed regulation amending Regulation 1093/2010 (see this blog post for more details).  The European Parliament has also published a document containing the provisional texts adopted which can be found on pages 105 and 50 respectively.

The Regulations will come into force following approval by the EU Council and publication in the Official Journal of the EU.  The ECB will assume its supervisory role 12 months later.

EU Council publishes final compromise SSM text

On 25 April 2013, the Council of the EU published the final compromise texts of a regulation conferring specific tasks on the European Central Bank concerning policies relating to the prudential supervision of credit institutions and the proposed regulation amending Regulation 1093/2010 (which established the European Banking Authority).  Together these texts establish the EU single supervisory mechanism (SSM).

Broadly, under the new regime, the European Central Bank (ECB) will assume responsibility for the supervision of “significant” credit institutions, with “less significant” credit institutions to remain subject to regulation by national supervisors.  “Significance” is to be based on the following criteria:

  • size;
  • importance for the economy of the EU or any participating Member State; and
  • significance of cross-border activities.

In addition, any credit institution will be regarded as “significant” if:

  • it has total assets of EUR 30 billion or more; or
  • the ratio of its total assets to the GDP of the participating Member State of establishment exceeds 20% (unless the total value of its assets is below EUR 5 billion); or
  • the ECB considers it to be of significant relevance; or
  • it has requested or received public assistance directly from the European Financial Stability Facility or the European Stability Mechanism;
  • it ranks amongst the three most significant credit institutions in a participating Member State.

The ECB will assume responsibility for, inter alia:

  • authorisations and withdrawal of authorisations;
  • the administration of certain activities currently carried out by home state regulators, such as the establishment of branches in non-participating Member States;
  • the assessment of applications for the acquisition and disposal of “qualifying holdings” (i.e. involving 10% or more of capital or voting rights);
  • the regulation of own funds requirements, securitisations, large exposure limits, liquidity, leverage, and reporting and public disclosure of information on those matters;
  • the enforcement of governance arrangements, risk management processes, internal control mechanisms, remuneration policies and internal capital adequacy assessment processes;
  • conducting supervisory reviews and stress testing;
  • consolidated supervision where parent companies are established in participating Member States; and
  • supervisory tasks in relation to recovery plans, early intervention and structural changes required to prevent financial stress or failure (but excluding any resolution powers).

EU Proposal calls for Burden-Sharing among Euro Zone Nations

This is a link to an article in today’s Financial Times regarding a European Commission draft proposal which will force euro zone countries to share the cost burden of future bailouts in return for aid from the zone’s €500bn rescue fund.

The plan, circulated among euro zone finance minister officials late last year, calls for struggling countries to either invest in the rescue fund, European Stability Mechanism (ESM), or guarantee the fund against any losses.  The proposal calls into question EU leaders’ commitment to “break the vicious circle” between failed banks and their sovereign leaders.

In June, the ESM agreed to directly recapitalise banks in countries such as Ireland and Spain in order to move large amounts of debt resulting from bank bailouts on to the ESM.  However, the plan states that the ESM will only pay out once countries that could afford it place their own funds into failing banks first.  A country facing insolvency after a bank bailout would also need to guarantee that the ESM would get its money back.  Finance ministers have until June to make a final decision while in the interim period, the draft is likely to change