Bundesbanker calls for limits on bank lending to government

Fri Dec 28, 2012 9:45am EST
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By Eva Kuehnen and Alexander Hübner

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - The vice president of Germany's Bundesbank has proposed setting limits for how much banks can lend to governments and backing such exposures with adequate capital to make them less reliant on taxpayers' help in crisis times.

Sabine Lautenschlaeger, who is also a member of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision which wrote the new global banking standards known as Basel III, told Reuters current regulation was setting the wrong incentives.

During the debt crisis, banks especially in troubled euro zone countries like Spain and Italy increasingly bought government debt and under Basel III they don't have to set capital aside to counter possible default risks.

"In the medium term for sovereign debt, there should be limits for overall exposure and capital should be required, which adequately reflects the risk," Lautenschlaeger said. "Regulation so far is setting the wrong incentives."

"But it has to be done with caution, for example with transition periods, because credit institutions and states need time to adjust," she added. "In the end, such a step would strengthen banks' resilience and thereby markets' confidence."

Another step that would boost confidence would be a swift implementation of Basel III, which world leaders approved in late 2010 and that now needs to be put into domestic law.

"It is very important that Basel III is implemented as soon as possible, I would like it to be next year. Whether it will be summer or winter is not that important," she urged lawmakers.

Europe and the United States, the world's two largest banking markets, will miss the globally-agreed January deadline.   Continued...

Bundesbank Vice President Sabine Lautenschlaeger (L) and board member of Bundesbank Andreas Dombret arrive for a news conference in Frankfurt November 14, 2012. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner