Europe strikes deal to push cost of bank failure on investors

Wed Jun 26, 2013 9:47pm EDT
 
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By John O'Donnell and Robin Emmott

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union agreed on Thursday to force investors and wealthy savers to share the costs of future bank failures, moving closer to drawing a line under years of taxpayer-funded bailouts that have prompted public outrage.

After seven hours of late-night talks, finance ministers from the bloc's 27 countries emerged with a blueprint to close or salvage banks in trouble. The plan stipulates that shareholders, bondholders and depositors with more than 100,000 euros ($132,000) should share the burden of saving a bank.

The deal is a boost for EU leaders, who meet later on Thursday in Brussels, and can show that they are finally getting to grips with the financial crisis that began in mid-2007 with the near collapse of Germany's IKB.

"For the first time, we agreed on a significant bail-in to shield taxpayers," said Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, referring to the process in which shareholders and bondholders must bear the costs of restructuring first.

The rules break a taboo in Europe that savers should never lose their deposits, although countries will have some flexibility to decide when and how to impose losses on a failing bank's creditors.

"They can affect German savers just as well as they can affect any other investor in the world," German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said after the meeting.

Taxpayers across much of Europe have had to pay for a series of deeply unpopular bank rescues since the financial crisis that spread across the bloc to threaten the future of the euro.

The European Union spent the equivalent of a third of its economic output on saving its banks between 2008 and 2011, using taxpayer cash but struggling to contain the crisis and - in the case of Ireland - almost bankrupting the country.   Continued...

 
Eurogroup chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem waits to address the European Parliament's Economic and Monetary Affairs committee to discuss the way in which assistance to member states has been conducted, particularly Cyprus, in Brussels May 7, 2013. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir