New Approach to Bank Lobbyism in Brussels?
The European Union has generated billions from Member States for the rescue of banks. The European Union is also largely responsible for the deregulation of bank supervision and capital markets in the last 15 years. An important group of deputies from all parties in the European Parliament find that bank lobby is far too strong in Brussels creating what they call FinanceWatch. Still many thought that creating a European Bank Authority would be the only solution to cope with the growing transnational power of banks as for exemple presented in the Bankers' round Table or the IIF.
After 15 years of the Irish/English/Dutch rule in Brussels bank policies the new French Commissoner for the Internal Market, together with his co-nationals in other important functions of bank supervision has raised hopes that these policies would change and consumer, small business and non-for-profit interests especially of the communities would at least be heard in Brussels.
But already the creation of EBA was a big disappointment. It is nothing but a new name for the existing co-ordination councils with no significant power and consequently also no responsibility towards the elected bodies in Europe. But what has now been created as a "stakeholder group" has traces of a cabaret.
The Banking Stakeholder Group
Among its 30 members we find 10 main bankers (“industry”) , another 5 from their main international accounting agencies as “users of banking services”. Six “top ranking academics” which can easily be associated as professors in banking and finance closely related to the banking industry (e.g. at Bocconi among which one represents the Brussels CEPS institute which is closely linked to ECRI a bank sponsored research institute). All this is accompanied by five “consumer” representatives and three for SMEs. No one from the other two core users of bank services: state and communities.
10 Bankers: The EBA has now “selected to represent” stakeholders in an advisory council. In this council we find a core group of representatives from the major banks from (with the exception of Hungary) only the leading banking member states of the EU (D, F, I, S, HU, ESP, A, GB). Beyond the usual suspects who already form the leading lobbying group of the bankers’ round table in Brussels from BNP Paribas, UniCredit, Nordea, Takarek, Santander, First Austria, Standard Chartered, Rabobank, Deutsche Bank and the German Savings Bank dominate the council.
5 Rating and Accountants: KPMG; PricewaterhouseCoopers; Federation of European Accountants; Standard & Poor; Deloitte
6 Academics from Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS); Bocconi University; Loughborough University/ Vienna University of Economics and Business; University of Bari; University of Oviedo; Ghent University
3 SME: BUSINESSEUROPE; Zentralverband des Deutschen Handwerks (ZDH); European Craft and SME Association (UEAPME)
5 Consumer: Consumer Organisations from Lithuania, Bulgaria, Slovenia together with two individuals without a formal link to consumer organisation from Poland and Great Britain.
We still should mention one representative of trade unions (European Trade Union Federation).
Consumer policy – a missing value
The selection of consumer representatives has already triggered a letter of protest from the European Consumer Associations BEUC. It is indeed amazing how consumer interest is seen as a playing field for arbitrary selection of persons who are just named “consumers” for the rest of the EU.
While the bankers represent the biggest states and the most important banks the selected consumers represent either no consumer organisation at all or just small entities and from the new accession countries where consumer protection has not had the same time to develop.
The only “consumer” from the old-EU Member States and heartland in banking and finance, is a British consultant who describes himself on the Internet as “a former Investment Banker, Derivatives trader, Adviser to governments and International organizations”. His consultancy has the interesting name “Re-define” which should be done with his definition as a consumer advocate too. The Polish “consumer” representative represents the EU-nominated “Financial User Group” which is in the hands of the EU-Commission. On the Internet he is presented as “Financial Service User Group; Reader in the Department of Social Insurance at the Warsaw School of Economics. His research interests include microfinance and microinsurance, as well as health care insurance and pension reform.”
Sustainable Financial Services - grass root conferences are necessary
Nobody can expect that bankers who are used to obedient and listening politicians, paid enormous salaries, and titled "systemic" for our society will volontarily give up their influence and power. Nobody can expect that public civil servants, who depend on the good will and expertise of bankers, will confront them with nasty stupid consumer activists who just want to know where the money comes from and where it goes.
This is why the growing number of international groups who want to develop a sustainable money system like FinanceWatch, Coalition for Responsible Credit (ECRC) and who are neither linked to any kind of (alternative) products or less alternative suppliers or other financial interests should be exploited for a new wave of congresses for sustainable financial services and tamed bankers.