Category Archives: bank bondholders

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.

26/12/15: Depositors Insurance or Depositors Rip-off?

What's wrong with this picture?

In simple terms, nothing. The Central Bank has embarked on building up reserves to fund any future pay-outs on deposits guarantee.

In real terms, a lot.

Central Bank deposits guarantee will be funded from bank levies. However, in current market environment of low competition between the banks in the Irish market, these payments will be passed onto depositors and customers. Hence, depositors and customers will be funding the insurance fund.

Which sounds just fine, except when one considers a pesky little problem: under the laws, and contrary to all the claims as per reforms of the EU banking systems, depositors remain treated pari passu (on equal footing) with bondholders (see note here on EU's problems with doing away with pari passu clause even in a very limited setting: Now, let's consider the following case: bank A goes into liquidation. Depositors are paid 100 cents on the euro using the new scheme and bondholders are paid 100 cents on the euro using the old pari passu clause.

Consider two balancesheets: one for depositor holding EUR100 in a deposit account in an average Irish bank over 5 years, and one for the bondholder lending the same average bank EUR100 for 5 years.

Note: updated version

Yes, the numbers are approximate, but you get the point: under insurance scheme the Central Bank is embarking on, the depositor and the bondholder assume same risks (via pari passu clause), but:

  • Depositor is liable for tax, fees and insurance contributions, whilst facing low interest rates on their deposits; while
  • Bondholder is liable for none of the above costs, whilst collecting higher returns on their bonds.

So, same risk, different (vastly different) returns. Still think that insurance fund we are about to pay for a fair deal?..