Bankers win friends again in Europe with lure of easy money

Mon Apr 21, 2014 1:08am EDT
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By John O'Donnell

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Jacques de Larosiere says he is an isolated and modest man. Yet the 84-year-old former head of the International Monetary Fund is one of the most influential voices in European and global finance.

An eminence grise as respected among France's political elite as in the heart of the law-drafting European Commission, de Larosiere finds himself at the nexus of finance and rulemaking, treading a fine line between lobbying and advice.

Following the financial crash, his blueprint - produced by a group of experts he led at the request of the European Commission in 2009 - shaped the most ambitious round of banking reform in Europe's history.

Now he is pushing to help banks with a scheme that some experts warn could repeat mistakes that led to the collapse.

His work provides a rare glimpse of the ease with which European lawmakers interact with industry and how banks, despite the crash, still shape the 'rules of the game'.

He runs a Paris-based think-tank called Eurofi where investment banks such as Goldman Sachs (GS.N: Quote) and JP Morgan (JPM.N: Quote) pay for membership in part to interact with the officials and parliamentarians who decide the fate of their industry.

Although he is no longer on its payroll, he provides advice to BNP Paribas (BNPP.PA: Quote) and has an office at the bank.

In biannual meetings of the Group of 30, an elite body of financiers and academics who meet around the globe, de Larosiere rubs shoulders with Mario Draghi, the President of the European Central Bank, and former U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.   Continued...

Former Bank of France and IMF director Jacques de Larosiere, whose recommendations to tighten financial supervision in Europe were largely endorsed by the European Commission, reacts to the G20 Pittsburgh summit outcome during an interview with Reuters in Paris September 28, 2009. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier