Fines for Misconduct in the Banking Sector – What Is the Situation in the EU?

20-03-2017

This paper was drafted under supervision of the Economic Governance Support Unit. Misconduct (conduct) risk may be defined as the risk of losses to an institution arising from an inappropriate supply of financial services, including cases of willful or negligent misconduct. Based on EBA data, it generates the vast majority of operational risks expected by Europe’s top banks (€71bn according to the 2016 stress test). According to public-domain figures, misconduct costs have been rising strongly for large European banks in 2011-2015, although no European lender matches the costs experienced by large US banks. The distribution of losses looks highly skewed, with a few exceptionally high costs. More than 55% originates from traditional areas like commercial and retail banking. There are signs that conduct costs (per unit of total assets) have been stronger for small and mid-sized institutions, and for banks that ended up in resolution or requiring some other form of extraordinary support. Conduct risk is addressed by a number of EU-wide regulations and supervisory standards. Still, only half of the EU’s competent authorities include conduct risk in their supervisory examination programmes. To discipline conduct risk ex post sanctions play a useful role, but should be complemented by ex ante tools like improving the quality of bank governance, preventing remuneration schemes that encourage inappropriate practices, encouraging whistle-blowing and improving the clarity of regulations to remove grey areas.

This paper was drafted under supervision of the Economic Governance Support Unit. Misconduct (conduct) risk may be defined as the risk of losses to an institution arising from an inappropriate supply of financial services, including cases of willful or negligent misconduct. Based on EBA data, it generates the vast majority of operational risks expected by Europe’s top banks (€71bn according to the 2016 stress test). According to public-domain figures, misconduct costs have been rising strongly for large European banks in 2011-2015, although no European lender matches the costs experienced by large US banks. The distribution of losses looks highly skewed, with a few exceptionally high costs. More than 55% originates from traditional areas like commercial and retail banking. There are signs that conduct costs (per unit of total assets) have been stronger for small and mid-sized institutions, and for banks that ended up in resolution or requiring some other form of extraordinary support. Conduct risk is addressed by a number of EU-wide regulations and supervisory standards. Still, only half of the EU’s competent authorities include conduct risk in their supervisory examination programmes. To discipline conduct risk ex post sanctions play a useful role, but should be complemented by ex ante tools like improving the quality of bank governance, preventing remuneration schemes that encourage inappropriate practices, encouraging whistle-blowing and improving the clarity of regulations to remove grey areas.