The governance and ownership of significant euro-area banks
This Policy Contribution shows that listed banks with dispersed ownership are the exception rather than the rule among the euro area’s significant banks, especially beyond the very largest banking groups. The bulk of these significant banks are government-owned or cooperatives, or influenced by large shareholders, or prone to direct political influence.
The banking crisis in the euro area, which started in mid-2007 and has yet to be fully resolved, has sparked considerable debate and reform, most notably the initiation of banking union starting in mid-2012. But one issue that has been largely overlooked in the debate is the peculiar ownership and governance structures of euro-area banks. European policymakers and analysts often appear to assume that most banks are publicly listed companies with ownership scattered among many institutional investors (‘dispersed ownership’), a structure in which no single shareholder has a controlling influence and that allows for considerable flexibility to raise capital when needed (‘capital flexibility’).
This Policy Contribution shows, however, that listed banks with dispersed ownership are the exception rather than the rule among the euro area’s significant banks , especially if one looks beyond the very largest banking groups.