April 20, 2024

DealBook: European Regulator Criticizes U.S. on Banker Bonuses

Michael Barnier, the European Union's top financial regulator.Olivier Hoslet/European Pressphoto AgencyMichel Barnier, the European Union’s top financial regulator.

5:43 p.m. | Updated

LONDON —The European Union’s top official for banking regulation has accused the Obama administration of being too lax on bonuses for bankers and not putting in place capital rules fast enough.

Michel Barnier, the European commissioner for the internal market and services and a former foreign minister of France, warned that a failure to unify financial regulation in Europe and the United States could give some banks an unfair advantage over their foreign rivals.

“The level playing field must be a reality, not an empty slogan,” Mr. Barnier wrote in a letter to the Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, whom he is to meet in Washington on Thursday.

At the meeting, Mr. Barnier indicated that he planned to discuss the difference in progress between the United States and the European Union in tightening financial regulation and to urge Mr. Geithner to bring American rules closer to those of Europe.

As lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic push ahead with their own changes to financial regulation, senior officials and banking executives accused one another of lacking the political will for stricter rules. The issue has also been a great source of controversy on Wall Street, where banking executives warned about so-called regulatory arbitrage.

“As you may recall, we implemented Basel II already in 2006,” Mr. Barnier wrote in the letter, which was reported earlier by The Financial Times. “It is essential to respect the deadlines agreed last year.”

Mr. Barnier also criticized the American approach to restrictions on bonuses as leaving “too much latitude” for financial institutions to “circumvent globally agreed principles.”

“I think you agree with me that ‘bankers’ bonuses’ is a matter that continues to cause public outrage,” Mr. Barnier wrote in the letter. “Getting this matter right is key to restoring our citizens’ confidence in the financial system — and ultimately — their confidence in the public authorities regulating the financial institutions.”

The United States and other major economies agreed at the Group of 20 meeting in Pittsburgh in 2009 to find ways to limit incentives for excessive risk taking, which was partly blamed for the financial crisis. But Mr. Barnier argued that only the European Union had imposed binding rules for bonuses.

Under those rules, which were approved last year, banks must defer as much as 60 percent of bonuses to senior managers for at least three years. Half of the remaining amount must be paid in shares as opposed to cash.

Mr. Barnier also plans to ask Mr. Geithner for an update on the writing of Dodd-Frank rules for derivatives markets, credit rating agencies and accounting standards.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=65ee6e2d39e6338e5ce66fd4eb4059be

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