Wednesday, January 13, 2016

13/1/16: Bail-ins in Europe: Have Some Fun, Legal Eagles…

In a recent article for Forbes, In Europe, 2016 Will Be The Year Of Lawsuits, Frances Coppola neatly summed up the problem of the EU’s attempts to structure a functional bail-in mechanism for failing banks resolution regime.

I covered to topic in a number of previous posts here (the more recent one). But as the first days of the New Year are rolling in, the problem is becoming apparent.

FT covered the problem with Portugal’s Novo Banco bail in here. Summing up the case: “Europe’s new regime for winding up failing banks has made an inauspicious start, as investors lashed out at the European Central Bank for allowing Portugal to impose losses on almost €2bn of senior bondholders in Novo Banco”.

And beyond Portugal, there is the case of Austria’s attempt to reduce burden on taxpayers from bailing out Hypo Alpe Adria via “imposing losses on bondholders through a reversal of guarantees given by the province of Carinthia”. Back in July 2014, the whole house of cards that is Europe’s ‘no-bail-outs’ promise of the new regulatory architecture was taken down by the Austrian court ruling that ex post bail ins of bondholders can’t be done. Which rounds things from the impossibility of ex post bail-ins to the impossibility of ex ante bail-ins.

And then there is the case of the Cypriot banks’ depositors bail-ins of 2012 that is about to start going.  A reminder of the case: “The EU initially agreed to provide bank recapitalisation assistance as it was necessary to safeguard the Eurozone, but in March 2013 the European Commission and the European Central Bank relented and set new conditions for providing financial assistance that involved depriving depositors of Cyprus Popular Bank (Laiki Bank) of all their savings – except the government-guaranteed amount of €100,000 – and in the case of Bank of Cyprus of 47% of uninsured deposits. The EU’S change of mind was unprecedented and unexpected because bank deposits are regarded as sacrosanct. …The EU was not prepared to assist depositors in Cyprus with €7 billion because the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was not satisfied Cyprus could sustain such a debt.”

One must also remember the role of the European ‘regulators’ in all of this mess. Take the Bank of Cyprus. It passed EU banks stress tests just before it crashed and burned in a subsequent bail-out and bail-in to the tune of €23 billion to the taxpayer and a 47.5% haircut on deposits over €100k.

It looks like 2016 is going to be a fun year for European financial sector ‘reforms’ and a stimulus to the legal profession. All paid for by the taxpayers, of course.

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