Plenary Speech – ECB sanctions

Los Angeles

Firstly, I would like to begin by thanking Mr Van Overtveldt for the excellent work he did in drafting this report, before leaving the Parliament to become Belgian Finance Minister so recently.

I have tried to continue working on the report using his working method and vision. I would also like to thank the shadow rapporteurs, Markus Ferber, Costas Mavrides, Cora Von Nieuwenhuizen, Marisa Matias and Sven Giegold for their cooperation on the report. Despite some of the differences on minor parts of the report I hope this good will, will extend to the overall report being voted through tomorrow. In the last Parliament we made an unprecedented change to the role of the ECB. Instead of just acting as a central bank with power over monetary policy we gave it powers to supervise the largest banks in the Eurozone, with the option for those member states outside of the Eurozone to also join the Single Supervisory Mechanism. The Banking Union has fundamentally changed the role and responsibility of the ECB. While the ECB should continue to be independent from political influence in terms of monetary policy, it is imperative that in its new function as banking supervisor it is accountable.

During earlier trilogues, the EP tried to include scrutiny processes and transparency in the ECB’s operations and was often rebuffed, yet we did make some huge steps forward in terms of information sharing with the European Parliament, so some democratic accountability is present in the process. I have tried in this report, to continue in this vein.

Adding accountability and transparency wherever possible. In the initial draft of this regulation, when the ECB imposed a sanction upon a financial institution, it could decide whether or not this sanction was made public. There were no conditions or time limits attached. It was entirely within their mandate to decide on disclosures. While I can see reasons why, in some circumstances, not publishing the fact they have been sanctioned immediately, might be necessary, for example in the case of a wider financial crisis situation or worries about bank runs etc. But this should not be norm.

Normal operating procedure should be immediate public disclosure. The prospect of a fine may not phase large financial companies, but being on the front page of every newspaper poses a much larger reputational risk. For this reason, we have compromised between political groups to a three year time limit on how long the ECB can wait to disclose the fact that they have sanctioned a financial firm. I am disappointed that there was one area of the report that no compromise could be found. I am a firm believer in innocent until proven guilty. Therefore, if we consider that part of the punishment for breaking the rules is that of reputational damage using a “naming and shaming” approach, then it seems to me logical that if a decision is subject to an appeal and may still be overturned, then we should allow a longer time period before disclosure to the wider market takes place. Failing to provide this safeguard may otherwise cause a bank to lose significant value in its share price based on an accusations that are later overturned on appeal. I believe adding in this safeguard will ensure the fairness of the disclosure process and will increase the effectiveness of the sanctioning regime, which will then increase the effectiveness of the ECB itself when exercising its supervisory powers.

I therefore hope that the majority of the European Parliament political groups can continue to support this centrist position calling for increased transparency. Specifically on the Gualtieri report I have very little to add. The regulation should increase the quality of the statistics that the ECB is working with. I honestly believe that the only way we will get good quality supervision, whether national or supranational. Their work is only as good as the quality of the statistical information they are working with. I hope therefore that the proposals in these two reports to increase transparency, increase disclosure and increase the quality of statistical data will gain broad support at tomorrow’s vote.