EU makes progress on bank capital, curbing bonuses

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Published December 13, 2012

| Reuters

European officials have reached tentative deals to implement tougher capital rules for banks in January 2014 and to cap bankers' bonuses, inching them towards agreement on a new law to strengthen the financial system.

European Union (EU) states and the European Parliament met in Strasbourg, France, and despite progress on such key issues failed to agree an overall deal on a law to implement so-called Basel III rules, which require banks to hold more capital.

A spokeswoman for the parliament said there would be a further meeting on Tuesday to iron out remaining issues.

The Basel III rules are part of a drive by regulators across the world to prevent a repeat of the 2007-09 financial crisis. They would force the EU's 8,000 banks to triple the amount of capital they hold compared with before the crisis, in the hope that would make them strong enough to cope with market shocks without the need for a repeat of taxpayer-funded rescues.

World leaders agreed in 2010 that Basel III should be phased in over six years from January, but that deadline is already unfeasible in both Europe and the United States as banks and governments squabble over the details.

The delay in implementing Basel III means banks and investors are left in the dark for longer about the exact impact of new rules on future profitability as the EU law will diverge in some respects from the global Basel accord.

The EU negotiations on Thursday tentatively settled on a January 2014 start, a parliamentary source said.

The EU's 27 states were represented by the bloc's president, Cyprus, and the elements agreed at the meeting could still be thrown out by member states next week. The parliament aims to vote on a final deal in February.

One key hurdle to a deal has been parliament's insistence that a bonus should be no more than a banker's salary. But lawmakers gave some ground on Thursday.

Bonuses would still be no more than the salary but, with shareholder approval, could go up to twice that level, a second parliamentary source said.

The deal on bonuses came after parliament agreed to member states' insistence on implementing other elements of the Basel accord - a balance sheet cap and long-term liquidity buffer - through new legislation rather than delegating the task to the European Commission.

Separately, the global Basel Committee, which wrote Basel III, is meeting to discuss easing its planned liquidity buffer as economic conditions remain tough.

It is not clear if the committee will issue a statement on Friday or wait until its conclusions have been signed off by its oversight body which is expected to meet next month. (Reporting by Huw Jones, additional reporting by Claire Davenport in Brussels; Editing by Anthony Barker and Mark Potter)

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