On 4 February 2014, the EU Parliament published a press release on the latest negotiations over bank resolution.
As previously reported (see this blog post for more detail), negotiations over resolution funding seemed largely to have reached an impasse. However, yesterday’s tone seems somewhat more conciliatory in nature. Continue reading →
On 23 October 2013, the European Central Bank (ECB) published a note, accompanying press release and transcript of a question and answer session regarding the comprehensive assessment of banks’ balance sheets and risk profiles it will carry out in advance of assuming full responsibility for supervision as part of the single supervisory mechanism (SSM) in November 2014.
The exercise will commence in November 2013 and take approximately 12 months to complete. It will involve approximately 130 “significant” credit institutions established in 18 EU Member States (listed in the annex to the note), covering approximately 85% of euro area bank assets which will be directly supervised by the ECB. It has three main goals:
Transparency – enhancing the quality of information available concerning the condition of banks;
Repair – identifying and implementing necessary corrective actions; and
Confidence building – assuring all stakeholders that banks are fundamentally sound and trustworthy.
The assessment will be carried out in collaboration with national competent authorities and will consist of:
A supervisory risk assessment – addressing key risks in banks’ balance sheets, including liquidity, leverage and funding;
An asset quality review – examining the asset side of bank balance sheets as at 31 December 2013; and
A stress test, building on and complementing the asset quality review by providing a forward-looking view of banks’ shock-absorption capacity under stress.
The outcome of the assessment may lead to a range of remedial action, including changes in a bank’s provisions and capital.
 A bank is “significant if:
the total value of their assets exceeds €30 billion;
the ratio of total assets to GDP of the participating Member State of establishment exceeds 20 per cent, unless the total value of their assets is below EUR 5 billion;
the institution is among the three largest credit institutions in a participating Member State.
On 14 October 2013, the European Central Bank (ECB) published a speech given by its President, Mario Draghi, on 12 October 2013 regarding the Euro area economic outlook, ECB monetary policy and current policy challenges.
The speech was wide-ranging, but touched upon progress made to date in establishing European banking union. Mr Draghi welcomed the approval of the single supervisory mechanism (SSM) by the European Parliament on 12 September and looked forward to its “urgent adoption” by the EU Council later this month, with a view to the ECB adopting its new supervisory role by November 2014. In addition, Mr Draghi supported the establishment of the single resolution mechanism (SRM), “a necessary complement to the SSM”, by the end of 2014.
The Single Resolution Mechanism (SRM) proposed by the EU Commission in July has suffered a fresh blow (see this blog for SRM background). On 7 October 2013, an opinion from the European’s legal service sheds serious doubt on the legality of giving a new agency wide discretion to close troubled banks under EU treaties, potentially undermining a key element of the resolution proposal.
The 26-page document warns of the pitfalls involved in giving a body too many powers and in particular states that “The legal service considers that the powers which would be conferred by the proposal of the board…need to be further detailed in order to exclude that a wide margin of discretion is entrusted to the board”. The legal opinion may cause the EU Commission to rethink the proposal, causing more delays. The first stage of the proposal which involves the European Central Bank directly supervising 130 top euro zone lenders has already been delayed to the end of 2014. The SRM which forms one of the building blocks of the EU Banking Union now needs backing of member states to become law.
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.
On 10 July 2013, the EU Commission proposed a Single Resolution Mechanism (SRM), a complement to the Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM) and one of the building blocks of EU Banking Union. The SRM is designed to ensure that the resolution of a failing bank can be managed efficiently with minimal costs to taxpayers and the real economy.
The proposed SRM would apply the substantive rules of the Recovery and Resolution Directive (RRD). The EU’s Council of Finance Ministers reached agreement on a general approach to the RRD on 27 June and the EU Parliament’s Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs adopted its report on 20 May. Negotiations between the Council and the European Parliament are due to start soon with the aim of reaching final agreement on the RRD in autumn 2013. At its recent meeting, the EU Council of Ministers set themselves the target of reaching agreement on the SRM by the end of 2013 so that it can be adopted before the end of the current European Parliament term in 2014. This would enable it to apply from January 2015, together with the RRD.
Under the SRM:
the European Central Bank (ECB) would signal when a bank in the euro area or established in a Member State participating in the Banking Union was in severe financial difficulties and needed to be resolved;
a Single Resolution Board, consisting of representatives from the ECB, the EU Commission and the relevant national authorities, would prepare the resolution of a bank;
a Single Bank Resolution Fund, funded by contributions from the banking sector and replacing national resolution funds, would be set up under the control of the Single Resolution Board;
on the basis of the Single Resolution Board’s recommendation, or on its own initiative, the EU Commission would decide whether and when to place a bank into resolution and would set out a framework for the use of resolution tools and the Single Bank Resolution Fund; and
under the supervision of the Single Resolution Board, national resolution authorities would be in charge of the execution of a resolution plan.
On Monday, Bundesbank Vice President Sabine Lautenschläger spoke out in favour of a single resolution authority at a conference in Berlin, according to this article. She said an EU wide mechanism would be able to take a “bird’s eye view” of financial institutions allowing for an easier and quicker solution in crisis situations. Lautenschläger added that it does not make sense to oversee banks at the European level while leaving their resolution to national authorities, although accepted that this would require amendment to EU treaties.
Her comments are at odds with the German government which ideally seeks a network of national resolution authorities (although recently agreed to a “resolution board” made up of national authorities) and is resistant to any scheme that could empower an external agency to independently decide when to close a bank. German Deputy Finance Minister Thomas Steffen, speaking at the same conference, said that the EU Commission would have a centralised resolution authority proposal soon.
If it were needed, proof positive once again that politics and economics don’t always mix is this link to an article published today in the FT. It discusses the split developing within the EU between Brussels, Paris and the European Central Bank (ECB) on one hand, and Germany on the other. The subject of the split is the future direction of EU banking union, specifically the design of the Single Resolution Authority, which together with the Single Supervisory Mechanism and the Common Deposit Guarantee Scheme, represents the three pillars of EU banking union.
The article describes the “German vision” for banking union – one of gradual integration where Member States remain largely responsible for supervision (albeit with coordination between national authorities) and wholly liable for costs (so as to protect the German taxpayer). This contrasts with the EU vision for banking union which demands the creation of a centralised “heavyweight bank executioner” and implies a surrender of sovereignty with which Germany is uncomfortable.
If one considers that a single EU authority is a necessary step in relation to the supervision of credit institutions from birth and throughout life, it seems logical to conclude that a single authority should also govern them in their death. Despite this, apparently logic has no place in this discussion and no compromise is in sight. Add to this the fact that reformers are up against the deadlines of looming elections in Germany and at an EU level as well as a change of commission and EU banking union seems to be as far away as ever.
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:
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).