The presence of European Central Bank officials at lenders’ board meetings threatens to turn them into staged events and may render them essentially useless, Societe Generale SA Chairman Lorenzo Bini Smaghi said Tuesday.
(Bloomberg) — The presence of European Central Bank officials at lenders’ board meetings threatens to turn them into staged events and may render them essentially useless, Societe Generale SA Chairman Lorenzo Bini Smaghi said Tuesday.
“There is a risk that we are moving toward a play, a play where people have a script and they just read their script,” Bini Smaghi said at a conference in Frankfurt. The ECB’s purported rationale behind the practice — analyzing directors’ behavior — is akin to letting “psychologists into the room,” he said, arguing the move could hamper natural interaction among the other members of the meeting.
Bini Smaghi’s public comments renew a critique he first directed at the ECB in a letter he sent privately almost a year ago. At the time, he argued that the watchdog’s supervisory practice of attending board meetings of supervised entities was excessively intrusive while yielding few benefits.
Read more: Europe’s Top Bankers Press Their Regulator to Back Off
Bini Smaghi, who used to be an executive board member at the ECB, made the comments at a conference that was also attended by ECB executive board member Frank Elderson.
Elderson pushed back against the criticism, saying it was probably a “misunderstanding” of why the ECB attends board meetings. The practice isn’t meant to monitor participation or influence boards’ decisions, but rather aims at assessing the governance body’s ability to challenge management, he said.
“Although it is for banks themselves to define their culture and values, it is the role of the supervisor to assess whether the culture they define is aligned with prudent risk-taking,” Elderson said according to prepared remarks.
Bini Smaghi pointed out that boards are already assessed on a regular basis by external consulting firms. He said that a focus on the ability of directors to challenge management could lead to increased confrontation at meetings and even create the risk of management eventually leaving.
The practice could also make it harder to find board members, a task that he said is complicated enough.
“If you tell them that now psychologists are going to come to assess them, my job to find board members is going to be desperate,” he said.
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