Sun, Sep 09, 2012 - Page 13 News List

EU plans to allow ECB to raid banks

CONTROVERSIAL CONTROL:The banking supervision proposal would reduce the role of the European Banking Authority and would be a step toward a banking union

AFP, BRUSSELS

The European Central Bank (ECB) is to be authorized to carry out spot checks and withdraw the licenses of lenders under banking supervision proposals to be presented by the European Commission next week.

A 33-page draft of the plans drawn up in Brussels and put online by Italian business daily Il Sole 24 Ore said the ECB is to have the power to grant and withdraw banking licenses, previously the preserve of national supervisors.

The common bank supervisor proposal is due to be unveiled on Wednesday in the European Parliament sitting in Strasbourg by Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and financial services commissioner Michel Barnier.

The ECB would take up its new duties as of July 1 next year, and after a transitional period, take sole authority on Jan. 1, 2014.

EU leaders decided at a June summit to create a common banking supervisor as part of a deal that would allow the bloc’s rescue funds to directly lend funds to stricken banks instead of passing aid through countries and adding to sovereign debt problems.

It is a first step towards a banking union and part of wider moves towards fuller economic and political integration which they judged necessary to break the vicious circle driven by the eurozone debt crisis which has brought the region’s economy to a standstill.

The proposal is controversial, reducing the role of the London-based European Banking Authority which was set up in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis.

It has been opposed by among others Britain, home to the financial center of the City of London where big eurozone banks have major interests.

The legislative proposals — which face many months of hard bargaining among governments and then the European Parliament — give the ECB the power “to authorize credit institutions and to withdraw authorization of credit institutions.”

It will also monitor all sorts of measures, from capital buffers and liquidity to public disclosure.

Even non-euro states would be pushed to enter into formal “close cooperation” agreements with the ECB which would allow it to use the same spot-check powers.

These include the right to require the submission of documents, examine and take records, interview staff and conduct all necessary on-site inspections, which may take place without prior announcement.

Earlier this week, ECB executive board member Joerg Asmussen said that while the central bank was ready to take on the new supervisory role, it had to be given real powers, including the right to “shut down, if necessary, banks that cannot survive on their own.”

A full banking union, which would likely include common funds to compensate depositors and shut down banks, is also controversial with a number of countries having expressed reservations about taking on such joint responsibility.

A “single supervisory mechanism is the basis for the next step towards the banking union,” the draft said.

“This reflects the principle that any introduction of common intervention mechanisms in case of crises should be preceded by common controls to reduce the likelihood that intervention mechanisms will have to be used,” it said.

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