Turns out that for Europe, Cyprus was a "bail-in" template after all, and following an agreement reached early this morning, Europe now has a joint failed-bank resolution mechanism. Several hours ago, EU finance ministers announced that they had reached agreement on the principles governing the imposition of losses on creditors in bank 'bail ins'. Having already agreed to establish "depositor preference" in the pecking order of creditors at risk, the stumbling block to agreement was the availability of flexibility at the national level to complement the bail in with injections of funds from other sources. Under the compromise achieved overnight, once a bail in equivalent to 8% of total liabilities has been implemented, support from other sources can be used (up to 5% of total liabilities) with approval from Brussels.
So investors (i.e. yield chasers) and not taxpayers will foot the cost of bank bailouts going forward for a change? Maybe on paper: "From 2018, the so-called “bail-in” regime can force shareholders, bondholders and some depositors to contribute to the costs of bank failure. Insured deposits under €100,000 are exempt and uninsured deposits of individuals and small companies are given preferential status in the bail-in pecking order." In reality, last night's agreement is the usual fluid melange of semi-rigid rules filled with loopholes designed to benefit large banks whose impairment may be detrimental to "systemic stability".
To wit, from the FT: "While a minimum bail-in amounting to 8 per cent of total liabilities is mandatory before resolution funds can be used, countries are given more leeway to shield certain creditors from losses in defined circumstances." In other words, here is the bail in regime... which we may decide to ignore under "defined circumstances."
Next, since the "package must be agreed with the European parliament, a process that could stretch until the end of 2013" we urge no breath holding, especially since it was in late 2012 that news of a joint European bank regulator was announced, and one year later this concept has crashed and burned. In fact the bail-in deal will "open debate on further stages of financial integration, including on establishing a central authority to shut down eurozone banks" and "Germany is strongly resisting centralising such important powers to shut down banks under existing treaties."
In other words, yet another European agreement that is at best worth the price of the paper it is printed on. In the meantime, if indeed some of the systemic European banks keel over and die - say Credit Lyonnaise, Natexis or Deutsche - the last thing that anyone will think about to avoid a systemic collapse will be impairing even more banks. As a reminder, these are the most undercapitalized banks in Europe as reported by Goldman yesterday:
But golf clap to Europe for finally admitting that reason and logic also apply to the most banana continent of all: after all, it took years of legislating to realize that the insolvency impairment waterfall, a concept rooted in logic and not in political BS, applies in Europe as it does everywhere else in the world too (except for the TBTFs in the US of course).
And all of the above, from a slightly less jaded perspective, via Reuters:
The European Union agreed on Thursday to force investors and wealthy savers to share the costs of future bank failures, moving closer to drawing a line under years of taxpayer-funded bailouts that have prompted public outrage.
After seven hours of late-night talks, finance ministers from the bloc's 27 countries emerged with a blueprint to close or salvage banks in trouble. The plan stipulates that shareholders, bondholders and depositors with more than 100,000 euros ($132,000) should share the burden of saving a bank.
The deal is a boost for EU leaders, who meet later on Thursday in Brussels, and can show that they are finally getting to grips with the financial crisis that began in mid-2007 with the near collapse of Germany's IKB.
"For the first time, we agreed on a significant bail-in to shield taxpayers," said Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, referring to the process in which shareholders and bondholders must bear the costs of restructuring first.
The rules break a taboo in Europe that savers should never lose their deposits, although countries will have some flexibility to decide when and how to impose losses on a failing bank's creditors.
"They can affect German savers just as well as they can affect any other investor in the world," German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said after the meeting.
* * *
But thorny issues lie ahead, not least whether countries or a central European authority should have the final say in shutting or restructuring a bad bank.
The European Commission, the EU executive, is expected to unveil its proposal for a new agency to carry out this task of "executioner" as early as next week, officials said.
"The most important discussion has yet to start and that is how decisions on restructuring will be made," said Nicolas Veron, a financial expert at Brussels-based think tank Bruegel. "It's premature to say that Europe is getting its act together."
Many Europeans remain angry with bankers and the easy credit that helped create property bubbles in countries including Ireland and Spain, which then burst and plunged Europe into a recession from which it has yet to recover.