This chapter considers the application of the EU Banking State Aid rules to Ireland during the Banking Crisis. It examines the Irish guarantee and asset management agency as well as the specific aid decisions for each of the Irish banks and building societies. Ireland is a fascinating case study because of the magnitude of the crisis in Ireland and the level of aid provided but also the intervention of the Troika and the recovery of the Irish economy.
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Ginevra Bruzzone, Miriam Cassella and Stefano Micossi
This chapter illustrates the reasons which led to the adoption of a regulatory framework for bank resolution in the EU and describes the main features of the BRRD and the SRM. On the whole, the system is well designed. However, some of its features deserve continuing consideration and review. The decision-making procedure for placing a bank under resolution is overly complex. A proper interpretation of the BRRD rules requiring the bail-in of private capital for any measure of support of banks is crucial for the sake of financial stability. The complementary role of State aid control has still to be fine-tuned. A further critical area is the adequacy of the Single Resolution Fund in providing a credible backstop to the SRM.
François-Charles Laprévote and Sven Frisch
When the financial crisis struck, the European Union lacked a comprehensive supranational regulatory and bank resolution framework. While EU-based banks operated on a cross-border basis, crisis management and resolution tools remained national in scope. Using the concept of the ‘financial trilemma’, we argue that the Commission’s crisis-time State aid policy sought to fill this void by both leaving Member States enough leeway to restore financial stability and coordinating their interventions to preserve cross-border banking, in line with constitutional market integration objectives. But the limits of State aid law and an often reactive approach to national interventions meant that the scope, overall coherence, and effective contribution of the Commission’s State aid decisions to market integration objectives varied from case to case.
Carlos Botelho Moniz, Pedro de Gouveia e Melo and Luís do Nascimento Ferreira
This chapter addresses the EU State aid framework for the banking sector in three Southern European countries that were under a financial assistance programme: Cyprus, Portugal and Spain. It covers the main milestones in the strengthening, recapitalization and restructuring of the largest banks in those countries, and addresses the way in which bailout rules intertwine with EU State aid provisions. Contrary to what one might expect, funds channelled to the banking industry from the assistance programmes and close monitoring by the EU institutions and the IMF throughout the programmes, were not always sufficient to remedy the shortcomings surrounding the financial sector.
This chapter analyses the special nature of banks, and how the importance of the banking sector and its stability overlaps with the preservation of competitive banking markets. Banks have a unique standing in the economy, and are regarded as more vulnerable to instability than other firms as they provide liquidity and are involved in inter-bank lending markets and the payment system. Due to the systemic nature of banks, governments try to avert a crisis that can affect the whole banking sector by ensuring that banks which are ‘too big to fail’ remain sustainable. Such intervention has a distortive effect on competition, as it prevents ‘self-correction’ of the market. State aid measures that characterized the response of regulators in the recent financial crisis were based on the premise of the special nature of the banking sector and its importance to the economy. In addressing the special nature of banks the chapter looks into the approach adopted towards banks under State aid control, tackling issues such as ‘too-big-to-fail’ and the BRRD and SRM.
Since the beginning of the financial crisis, the European Commission has acted quickly by flexibly adapting the application of State aid control to the special crisis context. Between 2008 and 2013, the Commission adopted seven communications that provide a comprehensive framework for common conditions at EU level for access to public support and the requirements for such aid to be compatible with the internal market in light of State aid principles. This chapter presents the evolution of the legal framework of State aid law and the developments introduced by the seven communications. It also presents the interaction between the State aid rules and the new resolution framework (Bank Resolution and Recovery Directive and Single Resolution Mechanism).
While most of the public support of financial institutions granted during the crisis period was deemed State aid, there were still a few instances in which public support escaped this qualification. This chapter examines the conditions under which public funding of banks does not constitute State aid, with particular emphasis on the application of the market economy investor principle (MEIP) to banking. It describes the main aspects of the MEIP, refers to the role of the European Central Bank in defining the rates of remuneration that would be acceptable to a private investor, and reviews the main contentious issues arising from application of the MEIP. It also refers to other public measures which do not constitute State aid other than by conforming with the behaviour of a hypothetical private investor.
The financial crisis hit the Belgian banking sector hard and early. The Belgian State had to bail out the three banking pillars of Belgium, namely Fortis, KBC and Dexia. From recapitalisations to guarantees and impaired asset relief measures, Belgium made use of the whole panoply of State aid measures available to restore confidence in the banking sector, under the benevolent and yet firm control of the European Commission. Belgium also introduced a guarantee scheme for shareholders of financial cooperatives, which the European Commission found incompatible with the internal market. Overall, while the European Commission did not burn bridges, it made sure that State aid granted by Belgium did not go one bridge too far.
French banks proved relatively resilient to the crisis. Their diversified model made their losses generally manageable, with the exceptions of Dexia and Crédit Immobilier de France, which ultimately had to be placed in resolution. However, the crisis revealed some of their weaknesses and led to targeted intervention by the State, including financial support schemes – through the creation of the Société de Financement de l’Économie Française and the Société de prise de participation de l’Etat – and individual measures. France also strengthened its oversight framework with the creation of the Autorité de Contrôle prudentiel and of the Conseil de Régulation Financière du Risque Systémique. This set of measures contributed to avoiding any major bankruptcy and maintaining funding to the real economy.