Category Archives: European Economics

European regulatory perspectives: Less is more!

Maxime Bablon, 9 September 2016

Post originally published on SAB

euro1

Jonathan Hill, former European Commissioner, took stock of his achievements on July 12, during a speech at the Bruegel Institute. He drew up the work carried out during his mandate as Commissioner for Financial Stability, Financial Services, and Capital Markets (FISMA) and detailed upcoming challenges for the institution.

Strong supporter of ‘smart regulation’ taking into account the financial sector’s specificities, the former Commissioner stressed the possibilities to enhance the regulation by stepping back and to harmonize the multiple texts issued in recent years.

Here are five key take-home messages from his speech, providing a good overview of ongoing challenges regarding EU financial regulations:

  • Growth and risk dilemma: In holding that ‘without risk there is no growth’, the British has put a cat among the pigeons. Main target: the aggregation of individual risk aversion which may cause a market risk and impact negatively the financial stability as a whole. This argument correlates with the analysis carried out by a consulting firm, estimating the decrease of the net banking income from -1.64% to -1.93%[1] for major banks subject to the Tax on Systemic Risk over the next decade. For the Commission, the decrease of the European growth domestic product (GDP) shall reach around -0.15% for each percentage points increase of the common capital ratios (CET1). Negative impact should remain cyclical and be cleared after 2019[2].
  • Keep it simple to rule: For the former Commissioner, the current regulation is so complicated that only a handful of lawyers and compliance officers can fully understand it. This constitutes a strong challenge for the long-term sustainability of the banking union. The lack of clarity in textual reference feeds the reluctances of national compliance officers in charge of the implementation of these regulations (for example financial reporting (FINREP) refers to a whole variety of texts to fill out the templates, some of which go back as far as 1978[3]).
  • Streamline and create synergies: Several regulations can conflict in their scopes and objectives. For instance, the leverage ratio has increased the cost of clearing, in contradiction with European Market Infrastructure Regulation (EMIR) requirements which aims to… increase the number of transactions going through central counterparty clearing houses (CCPs)! On these points, Jonathan Hill called for capitalizing on direct consultations to avoid crossfire between regulations and seize the opportunity to review existing regulations. For further flexibility, he also proposed to exempt certain players from clearing obligations (non-financial counterparties, pension funds and some small non-systemic financial companies, etc.).
  • Differentiation and proportionality principles: It occurs that enforced regulations do not take sufficiently into account the diversity of players, whether in terms of business model, risk profile and entity size. The capital requirement regulation review should focus on this point, especially regarding prudential requirements. The former Commissioner has mentioned the standard approach taken to define the credit risk and the margin for systemic risk. He implied that these factors impact negatively on the competitive advantage of small and medium banks. The simplification of the capital requirement calculation or the introduction of a specific exemption for smaller players – such as the credit unions – could be carried out to better take into account each actor’s specific characteristics.
  • Reduce the reporting burden: In accordance with the consultation carried out last year by DG FISMA, several entities have complained about information overlapping between the reports displayed (ex. EMIR, Markets in Financial Instruments Directive II (MIFID II) and the Securities Financing Transactions Regulation). For instance, Jonathan Hill mentioned the possibility to review EMIR to “avoid ‘dual reporting’ obligation, at least for non-financial firms”. Moreover, if the Commissioner welcomes the increase of data exchange between the national and European regulator, he wonders if “it [data exchanged] is all essential”. This quote also reflects the need to clarify tasks between the multiple regulatory layers (National authority, European Central Bank (ECB), European Banking Authority (EBA) etc.).

In the wake of the crisis, the banking union was set up within a very short time. It permitted to harmonize the prudential and resolution standards over a set of heterogonous countries, which was anything but easy. Given that the framework is now defined, regulators can start focusing on quality, in particular, by taking into account feedbacks given by financial services’ professionals (inter-text synergy, proportionality, optimization of the reporting scope, subsidiarity principle, etc.).

Valdis Dombrovskis (the new Vice-President of DG FISMA) has declared his will to pursue the work building upon the guidelines set up by his predecessor. However, other challenges are looming ahead, in particular the complex issues of the European deposit insurance scheme or the implementation of the capital markets union. Eventually, the main recommendation granted by the former Commissioner is to regulate less but better.

To go further:

[1] Banks reviewed are BNPP, CASA, SG and BPCE (see here)

[2] Capital Requirements – CRD IV/CRR – Frequently Asked Questions (see here)

[3] This is the case in particular with 4th council directive (78/660/CEE)

 

 

Maxime Bablon – Marie Sklodowska-Curie promotion (2012) – works as bank regulatory compliance consultant between Paris and the Maghreb in a French FinTech (Sab IT).

Germany Follows Cameron’s Lead In Treating EU Workers As Foreigners

Post originally published on socialeurope.eu, 5 May 2016

Ideas spread fast, bad ideas spread faster. Over the last few months, the European Commission has tried to give new impulse towards achieving a ‘Social Triple A’ rating. At the beginning of March, Employment and Social Affairs Commissioner Marianne Thyssen launched a social package comprising an outline of the European Pillar of Social Rights and some ideas to facilitate labour mobility. Continue reading

How the EFSI works in practice and how it doesn’t – a case study

Gibran Watfe, 7 January 2016

More than five years after the onset of the euro area sovereign debt crisis, the EU still struggles to recover in terms of growth and employment. The most important project by the European Commission under president Jean-Claude Juncker that is supposed to boost growth is the Investment Plan for Europe. The core of the plan is the creation of the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) that is meant to mobilize private investments for viable projects across the EU, based on a guarantee backed by the EU budget. For this purpose, the European Investment Bank (EIB) is supposed to invest funds of an amount that is three times the size of the guarantee fund, generating private investments of 15 times the amount of the fund. The idea behind this setup is that the guarantee fund takes on some of the risk of a project so that private investors are attracted, as they have to bear less risk.

Continue reading

End of bailing out of banks, but how accountable will the Single Resolution Board be?

Phedon Nicolaides, 4 January 2016

One of the benefits of the Christmas break is that you can catch up with the episodes of your favourite series that you have missed. In our case, we watched three seasons [about 45 episodes] of “Breaking Bad” – the hit tv series of the chemistry teacher who became a drug dealer. Yes, we too got addicted, thankfully in a different way.

Source: httphdwallpaperbackgrounds.net

Source: httphdwallpaperbackgrounds.net

But as we were watching back-to-back episodes of Breaking Bad I realised that they had managed to solve the principal-agent problem that has bedevilled the new economic governance of the European Union. As of 1 January 2016, the Single Resolution Mechanism became operational. A week earlier, on 24 December 2015, the Official Journal of the EU published the text of an “Agreement between the European Parliament and the Single Resolution Board on the Practical Modalities of the Exercise of Democratic Accountability and Oversight”. Will the European Parliament succeed to exercise effective oversight over the SRB? Before I answer this question, I want to explain how the principal-agent problem was solved in Breaking Bad. Continue reading

Commission’s Investment Plan Lacks Human Capital Component

Neglecting motivation, skills and digital literacy in work force risks losing Europe’s competitive advantage – Post originally published by Euro Insight, 18 November 2015.

The need to boost investment across Europe is undisputed and well documented. Since 2008, both private and public investment contracted: gross fixed-capital formation as a percentage of GDP fell from 22.2% in 2007 to 18.5% in 2013, and there are still no signs of recovery.

Continue reading

ECB to buy regional and local government debt – what does it mean?

Gibran WATFE, 4 December 2015

Yesterday, the ECB announced an extension of its quantitative easing (QE) programme that was started in March this year. Apart from extending QE for at least six months to March 2017, Mr. Draghi, the President of the ECB, announced a widened scope of the programme. Only certain types of assets are allowed to be bought as part of the QE programme. This included, so far, sovereign and supranational bonds, as well as asset-backed securities and covered bonds. Yesterday, the list of eligible assets was extended to regional and local government bonds. Why did the ECB do this?

Continue reading

Should State Aid that Is Passed on to Consumers Not be Recovered?

Phedon Nicolaides, 6 October 2015

On 5 February 2015, the General Court, in cases T-473/12, Aer Lingus v Commission and T-500/12, Ryanair v Commission, partly annulled Commission Decision 2013/199. In that decision the Commission found that a lower tax on air travel in Ireland that applied to flights that were essentially domestic was state aid. The Commission concluded that the aid was incompatible with the internal market and had to be recovered. The amount that had to be recovered was the difference between the lower and the standard rate of tax for all other flights from Ireland [which was EUR 8 per passenger] multiplied by the number of passengers who bought tickets taxed at the lower rate.

The two airlines argued that the Commission was wrong to demand recovery of the full amount of the tax difference because they had passed it on to passengers in the form of cheaper tickets. Surprisingly, the Court agreed with that point of view. It censured the Commission because “116 … inasmuch as the economic advantage resulting from the application of that reduced rate could have been, even only partially, passed on to the passengers, the Commission was not entitled to consider that the advantage enjoyed by the airlines amounted automatically, in all cases, to EUR 8 per passenger.”

When the judgment was issued I wrote an article criticising it for misinterpreting the concept of advantage and for misunderstanding how airlines could exploit the reduced tax even they could pass it on to passengers.[1] If the two airlines were passing all aid to passengers why did they bother to receive it in the first place? Surely they were not acting selflessly. Continue reading