1 Spain Fernando Mínguez Hernández & Íñigo de Luisa Maíz Global Legal Insights, 01/06/2013 Introduction From late 2008, the Spanish banking sector has lived through a constant and deep restructuring process that is yet unfinished and ultimately driven by regulatory responses to the severe crisis the sector is facing as a result of the abrupt end of the long period of rapid growth after Spain s incorporation to the euro in As of January 1, 2009, it was accurate to describe the Spanish Banking sector as quite unique among its European counterparts. While the country was, and is, home to two of the world s largest banking corporations (Santander and BBVA) present in other European jurisdictions and outside the EU, most significantly in Latin America such large corporations did not account for more than a 30% of the domestic deposit market share; the rest was in the hands of many other institutions, including a wide array of mid and small-sized companies. Bank of Spain s census as of that date comprised some 80 private banks (of which roughly 10 having a significant market share), 80 credit cooperatives (accounting, altogether, for a 5% of the share, approximately) and 45 savings banks (cajas de ahorros), representing, roughly, a 50% share of the market. Branches of foreign institutions (almost exclusively EU-incorporated) were and are present but hold a negligible share of the retail market 1. In addition, since 1994 financial establishments of credit (Establecimientos Financieros de Crédito) with fewer regulatory and supervisory requirements, focused on particular financial products, and with limited operation since they cannot collect funds from the public (leasing, factoring, consumer credit, mortgages, credit cards, etc.) have also a significant presence in the sector. The relevant presence of savings banks was doubtlessly the most salient feature of the Spanish banking system. Cajas are a genuinely Spanish type of institution, with no full equivalent in any other Western jurisdiction. The Supreme and the Constitutional Courts have described them in several judgements as foundation-like. Strictly speaking, savings banks are foundations not subject to the governance rules in the Foundations Act. As foundations they lack capital or any equivalent fund composed of legal instruments bearing voting rights 2. Therefore, savings banks have no owner 3. Their corporate governance depends on a complex set of mechanisms ultimately enacted by regional laws which place them under the control of regional powers. For this reason, it has been argued that savings banks are similar to German Landesbanken. There are, however, two relevant differences: (a) the Regional government or any other regional instance does not own the savings bank; and (b) although regionally based, since the early 80s, savings banks are not limited in their activity either geographically or by scope of permissible operations; they may compete with banks anywhere and with the same assortment of financial products. As a result, although a majority of them are still tied to the relevant region of origin with a scattered presence elsewhere some have evolved into truly national institutions, with relevant presence over all the territory. The crisis has changed this landscape dramatically. The banking sector has been hit by the real estate crisis. Exposures to developers and constructors accounted for a very relevant proportion of the bank s 4 assets. That, in addition to the effects of the general economic crisis, led many institutions into serious trouble when not simply into factual insolvency. All institutions were affected, but savings banks were particularly in trouble, since their
2 exposure was almost purely domestic and highly concentrated on real estate. The regulatory response over the now five years since the outbreak of the crisis has come in the form of a wide array of measures (see section 3 below) that, ultimately, have changed (and keep on changing) the banking sector and the regulatory architecture itself. Most changes have come by way of executive legislation (Royal Decree-laws 5 ) and address a variety of topics, namely: (i) measures to provide liquidity and solvency support to banks, (ii) measures to promote concentration among institutions and to set up restructuring alternatives, (iii) changes in the legal regime of savings banks, (iv) provisioning requirements and (v) changes in the supervisory and regulatory architecture. Over the crisis, the State has had to take over some banks and provide support to others. The banking sector recapitalisation needs, evidenced through successive stress-tests conducted both at the EU and domestic levels, led to Spain s request of financial assistance from the EU in the form of a 100bn credit facility. In order to obtain the line, in July 2012 Spain entered into an MoU with the EU on financial sector policy conditionality ( MoU ) which led to further regulatory measures, including the creation of an asset management company named SAREB 6 (commonly known as bad bank ) in operation from December 31, As a result of all this, the landscape of the banking sector has changed dramatically. The number of savings banks has dropped from 45 to barely a dozen, and only two tiny ones still operate under their savings bank status, whereas the rest have transferred their business to private banks and have now become de facto holding companies. Concentration has happened also, to a lesser extent, within the subsectors of cooperatives and banks. The State has taken over several institutions, some of which have been subsequently auctioned and acquired by other (Spanish) banks while other institutions have launched massive recapitalisation programmes. The process has not come to an end yet and more concentration is expected. In addition to the traditional credit institutions supervised by Bank of Spain, due to the weakness of most local banks, there are also new players in the Banking Sector providing credit and marketing other financial products without any supervision since they take advantage that collecting funds from the public is the only reserved banking activity for credit entities 7. Therefore, the shadow-banking phenomenon, and the need to supervise or not to supervise these incoming entities constitutes a major debate not only in Spain but also at EU level for harmonisation purposes. The latest Financial Stability Report issued by Bank of Spain dated on November 2012 provides an updated description of the Sector 8. In a nutshell, some key references: (i) default rate (tasa de morosidad) has gone up to 6.0%, while impaired assets on a consolidated basis increased by nearly 35% annually (June 2012); (ii) recourse of Spanish banks to the European Financial Stability system has increased at unprecedented levels due to the banks inability to obtain funds in the market; (iii) private deposits at banks and their patrimony on a consolidated basis have decreased respectively 4.0% and 3.6% annually (June 2012); and (iv) credit to the private sector has decreased 4.7% annually (June 2012). Regulatory Architecture: Overview of banking regulators and key regulations Mainly for historical reasons, Spain keeps a regulatory architecture which (i) is based on a sectoral approach (with a different regulator for banks, investment companies and insurance companies); and (ii) attaches banking supervision to the central bank. Hence, the most relevant public authority for banks is the Bank of Spain 9 which: (i) is responsible for licensing and registration; (ii) controls significant holdings; (iii) is responsible for prudential supervision, including on and off-site inspection and receives reporting; (iv) oversees conduct in the banking services market; and (v) holds and exercises disciplinary powers. In addition, the Bank of Spain has regulatory powers and may issue regulations on solvency, conduct, accounting and other matters relating to banks 10. As a banking regulator and supervisor, the Bank of Spain is largely autonomous, although technically under the authority of the Ministry of Finance 11. Being the most important, Bank of Spain is not the only public authority of relevance to banks 12 : The National Securities Market Commission (Comisión Nacional del Mercado de Valores
3 CNMV) holds authority over banks, whether listed or not 13, as providers of investment services 14. The SEPBLAC 15 is the Spanish financial intelligence unit and controls the application of antimoney-laundering and terrorist financing prevention rules in accordance with FATF standards (to which banks are subject). It holds supervisory capacity of its own and may exercise disciplinary powers in its field. The Deposit Guarantee Fund (Fondo de Garantía de Depósitos en Entidades de Crédito FGD) is privately ex ante funded by banks via compulsory periodical contributions, and governed by a committee which is split on a 50/50 basis between representatives of the banks themselves and Bank of Spain. The Spanish FGD is like the US FDIC and has wide capacity to adopt preventive measures rather than acting like a mere deposit paybox. The Orderly Banks Restructuring Fund (Fondo de Reestructuración Ordenada Bancaria FROB) 16 is a public institution, created in 2009 to cover the FGD s lack of financial capacity to deal with a systemic crisis. Its function was to provide support to (and eventually take over) banks in need for restructuring. In 2012 its legal status was re-shaped to turn it into a resolution authority. FROB holds a significant stake of SAREB, but no control over it, although supervises it. Spain is a member of the EU and the Eurozone and therefore most banking legislation and regulations are based on directives or adapted to those, or directly governed by EU regulations. Thus, there are many common areas to other EU jurisdictions. The primary EU statutes applicable, as amended from time to time, are: The Capital Adequacy Directive 17. The text now in force is, in fact, comprising two re-cast directives of the EU Parliament and the Council: 2006/48/EC and 2006/49/EC of 14 June 2006 ( CAD ). The Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID). EU Parliament and Council Directive 2004/39/EC of 21 April The Third Anti-Money-Laundering Directive. EU Parliament and Council Directive 2005/60/ EC of 26 October The Minimum Reserves Regulation. Council Regulation (EC) 2531/98 of 23 November EU legislation, in turn is mostly framed on international standards issued by relevant committees and organisations. In particular, the CAD responds to the present text of the Basel Committee 18 solvency standards (Basel II). The EU capital requirements framework is now under review, following the parallel exercise in the Basel Committee leading to Basel III. In 2011, the EU upgraded its supervisory framework by turning the pre-existing level III committees 19 into as many EU supervisory authorities. For the banking sector, the relevant authority is the EBA, which has taken over the role of the CEBS. The EBA performs an array of tasks, including the issuance of guidance on supervisory policy matters. Spain lacks a comprehensive source of banking legislation that may mirror the Italian or French Banking Codes. Laws applicable are contained in an uncodified series of acts, developed by a good number of regulations at various levels. The most relevant acts (by date of original enactment) are 20 : Banking Ordination Act of 31 December 1946 (although most sections have been abrogated or superseded, it still contains relevant provisions on licensing). Royal Legislative Decree 1298/1986 of June 28, adapting legislation in force on credit institutions to EEC law (most of its content, as the title indicates, includes amendments to other provisions but some substantive content remains applicable). Investment Coefficients, Own Funds and Reporting Obligations Act 13/1985 of May 25 (solvency regulations and CAD implementation). Securities Markets Act 24/1988 of July 28 (regulates, among other matters, investment services and implements MiFID 21 ). Credit Institutions Discipline and Intervention Act 26/1988 of July 29 (regulating disciplinary matters, but also licensing, significant holdings and some Bank of Spain s powers) ( Act 26/1998 ). Bank of Spain s Autonomy Act 13/1994 of June 1. Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Prevention Act 10/2010, of April 28 (implementing
4 the III AML Directive). Royal Decree-law 2/2011, of February 18, on the re-enforcement of the Financial System (core capital regulations). Royal Decree-law 16/2011, of October 14, on the Credit Institutions Deposit Guarantee Fund (merged the previous schemes into a single FGD). Credit Institutions Restructuring and Resolution Act 9/2012 of November 14 (gives the FROB its present legal status and institutes a comprehensive restructuring and resolution framework). 22 As stated, these acts and other relevant legal provisions are developed by a high number of regulations. Due to the technical nature of the matters, it is not unusual that the development is not completed in a single step, but requires a multiple-tier set of regulations from different authorities. Highly complex parts of the rulebook, or matters that require a very detailed degree of specification, are frequently left for Bank of Spain s regulations (Circulares) which, while forming the lowest tier in the cascade of regulations, become the most directly applicable and are thus perceived by the banks as essential 23. Finally, mirroring EBA guidance, in recent times there is yet another tier of (albeit soft ) regulation being developed, named Bank of Spain Guidelines and other good practices codes. These may be direct adoptions of EBA Guidelines (most frequently) or developed ad hoc by the Bank. Recent regulatory themes and key regulatory developments 24 As stated above, the years from the outbreak of the crisis have seen unprecedented regulatory activity in Spain in the form of amendments to existing legislation or enactment of ad hoc provisions, specifically aimed at addressing certain concerns. As a result, a deep reform of the financial sector (banks, investment firms and insurance companies) is a reality. Regulation has addressed multiple issues, although it may be systematised along several broad lines: In late 2008, the Spanish government addressed the issues posed by the shortage of liquidity in the markets by enacting Royal Decree-law 8/2008 of October 13, allowing for a line of State guarantees made available to Spanish banks. A second set of measures had to do with the legal status of savings banks. As commented above, these institutions are a particular type of foundation, thus unable to issue shares or any other votebearing securities (a fact that, among other implications, made it impossible for them to merge except with another savings bank). Royal Decree-law 11/2010, of July 9 introduced significant change in the structural regulation of these entities 25. From the entry into force of the latter, cajas might: (i) keep their status as foundations unaltered; (ii) issue a particular type of vote-bearing, participating security (named cuota participativa 26 ); (iii) transfer its banking business to a bank (existing or newly incorporated) and keep their status as credit institutions, albeit operating de facto as mere holding companies; this status (named indirect banking ) might be kept as far as the savings bank controls the underlying bank; 27 or (iv) transfer its banking business to a bank and become a foundation, subject to ordinary foundation governance rules, in which case no further requirements of control over the bank apply. From the entry into force of Royal Decree-law 11/2010, all but two of the existing savings banks have opted for the transfer of its banking business to a bank either willingly or as a precondition to apply for FROB aid. Some of them have already evolved into foundations as a result of loss of control over their banks, and it is the Government s official intention that indirect banking disappears shortly, all savings banks being turned into foundations (save the two that still carry out banking business directly). A third set of measures was meant to increase the solvency and resilience of the banking sector, anticipating, or going beyond, Basel III rules. In this respect: Royal Decree-law 2/2011, of February 18, introduced a core capital-like requirement, in anticipation of the core equity tier 1 Basel III requirements and going further than existing requirements under EU directives (see below). Royal Decree-laws 2/2012 of February 3, 17/2012 of May 4 and 18/2012 of May 11 (the later subsequently superseded by the Act 8/2012 of October 30) introduced extraordinary provisioning
5 requirements for real estate (repossessed assets) and real estate-backed assets related to exposures to developers and builders much higher than ordinary rules. The regulatory, supervisory and crisis management architecture of the country was upgraded by the creation of the FROB. The FROB was created by Royal Decree-law 9/2009 of June 26, and initially conceived as a financial tool. Funded mainly with budgetary resources 28, the FROB s role was to carry out the tasks that exceeded the FGD s capabilities and, in this respect: (i) it was meant to channel State aid in various forms to banks; and (ii) to manage such aid and, in case it came in the form of capital contributions, manage the divestments over a limited time-horizon 29. Royal Decreelaw 24/2012 of August, 31 (subsequently superseded by Act 9/2012 of November 14) reshaped the legal status of the FROB, turning it into a widely empowered resolution authority, capable of issuing administrative decisions binding on third parties. From its creation, the FROB has provided support in the form of convertible securities to a large number of institutions (albeit almost exclusively savings banks or banks controlled by savings banks). Over the crisis, a total of eight institutions (again, all savings banks except for a bank of which a savings bank was a significant shareholder) have been resolved or nationalised either by way of conversion of convertibles into shares or as a result of disciplinary proceedings 30. Only the first was taken over by the FGD, the remaining seven having been put in the hands of the FROB (five out of those eight have already been auctioned and sold out to other banking institutions). Finally, pursuant to the requirements set forth in the MoU, a comprehensive restructuring and resolution framework has been introduced by Royal Decree-law 24/2012 of August 31. This framework anticipates the content of the proposal for an EU directive on the same matter of June 6, 2012 (COM (2012) 280/3). The new legislation: Provides a clear outline of each of the situations a troubled institution may be in for purposes of setting up public intervention proceedings: (i) special measures (institutions that may experience solvency problems but whose viability is unquestioned); (ii) restructuring (institutions that are viable but need public support to continue as a going concern); or (iii) resolution (non viable institutions); the conditions applicable and procedure to follow. Sets the instruments that may be used (a restructuring or resolution toolbox) by the FROB. Introduces a burden-sharing principle by which the cost of rescuing or resolving an institution may not be borne by the FROB (and hence the taxpayer) alone but, quite the contrary, public support must always be minimised by having shareholders and holders of hybrids and other subordinated securities taking an appropriate share of such cost. Spain has thus become the first EU jurisdiction to have a comprehensive resolution framework featuring some of the elements that will be applicable throughout the EU in the near future. One of the elements in the resolution and restructuring toolbox are the so-called asset management companies (AMC), commonly nicknamed bad banks. If the FROB deems it appropriate, under the terms of a restructuring or resolution plan, a bank may be required to transfer damaged assets into an AMC to be managed separately. The MoU specifically requested that a first, large-scale AMC had to be created to deal with damaged assets of the banks that, at the time of its execution (July 2012) were already in the hands of the FROB and others that may need State aid in the near future (up to June 2013). The additional provisions of Royal Decree-law 24/2012 foresaw the creation of an AMC (incorporated as a public limited company) which should trade under the name of Sociedad de Gestión de Activos Procedentes de la Reestructuración Bancaria (shortened to SAREB ) and hold impaired assets from banks subject to State control or that have received State aid with a view to divesting them, maximizing value over 15 years. SAREB s legal regime was completed by Royal Decree 1559/2012 of November 16 and the company was effectively incorporated shortly before year-end 2012 and received a first, and the most relevant, transfer of assets on December 31. Total transfer price amounted up to 36bn approximately which was paid through bonds issued by SAREB and guaranteed by the State. SAREB is majority controlled by private investors (mainly healthy banks and insurance companies) and FROB holds a significant stake. At a second stage, it is envisaged that other banks that need State aid, pursuant to the law, must transfer assets to SAREB and will do so before June 30, The book value (in the books of SAREB, that is, after valuation discounts) of
6 the assets should not exceed 60bn. International investors are also expected to enter into SAREB. SAREB s regime also contemplates the possibility of creating Fondos de Activos Bancarios (shortened to FABs and similar to a trust) which may provide efficient and tailor-made investment structures for a particular category of assets. Bank Governance and Internal Controls External controls As in many other jurisdictions, Spanish credit institutions conduct and activities are specifically regulated and supervised by public administration authorities. This special regime is mainly included in Act 26/1998. Similarly to other EU jurisdictions, the aim is to set up mechanisms to allow the supervisor access to critical information about the situation and evolution of financial entities, to restrict or prohibit practices or operations which increase insolvency risks or reduce liquidity, and to reinforce the capital structure and protect their customers. Such regulation is applicable both to Spanish entities and other foreign institutions operating through an EU passport. Breaches of regulation are subject to sanctions (among others, penalties, disqualification, temporary intervention, revocation of licence) as established in Act 26/1988. Bank of Spain concentrates all functions on filing, control, monitoring, surveillance and inspection of all credit institutions in order to foster the solvency, stability and efficient operation of the financial sector and assure full compliance of the banking regulation. Under Act 26/1988 credit institutions and their directors, senior managers or any other individual holding a management position, which breach the regime ruling conduct and discipline, will be subject to administrative liability. Breaches are classified as very serious, serious and minor offences. Until the recent financial crisis, a great part of the credit for the Spanish sound banking sector was attributed to the prudential regulation and effective supervision conducted by Bank of Spain. Adequate analysis and assessment is provided through permanent presence of Bank of Spain inspectors at major banks. Through it, Bank of Spain may decide to issue recommendations or requirements to banks, and to initiate disciplinary proceedings against them if necessary in order to enforce compliance. Bank of Spain keeps also several specific registers for public information purposes. Apart from this, Bank of Spain has a duty to keep confidential all information and documentation obtained under its prudential supervisory role. Internal controls 31 Banks are credit institutions set up as special public companies (sociedades anónimas) subject to general corporate rules but also to particular requirements. Day-to-day management of banks, as in any other company, corresponds to its board of directors. Pursuant to EU directives, however, the board and its members must meet certain requisites. The board of directors of a bank shall be composed by a minimum of five members. According to Royal Decree 1245/1995, all directors (members of the board) and senior management of banks and their controlling companies should be individuals with broad expertise and good professional trackrecord (meaning at least five years of experience as managers, directors, controllers or advisors to financial institutions or other public or private companies of analogous size) and with an outstanding reputation and honorability in order to perform adequately their duties (meaning no criminal records, not being declared bankrupt and not disqualified to conduct public or private activities due to judicial resolutions or convictions). Members of the board, general managers, senior directors and the like are subject to the regime on discipline and intervention of Act 26/1988, so they can be sanctioned in case of breach of their duties (the administrative regime does not waive the general liability principle set forth in the Companies Act, but applies in addition to the latter). These individuals are also subject to the incompatibilities regime by which they cannot hold similar positions in other banks and have certain restrictions to be members of the board at other companies. Finally, members of the board and senior management should be identified and filed at the Official Register of Senior Banking Officers (Registro Oficial de Altos Cargos de la Banca) which is managed by Bank of Spain.
7 The internal requirements imposed on banks aim to guarantee that the directors of credit institutions are properly informed of all significant facts related to the banks so they can comply properly with all their obligations and can assume their liabilities. Banks shall have a good administrative organisation and accounting services, as well as internal control procedures to assure a sound and prudent management. In addition, Royal Decree 1245/1995 also establishes that banks shall set up adequate bodies and proceedings for internal control purposes in order to prevent and avoid any transaction which may trigger anti-money-laundering provisions. As a result of the above, together with the board of directors, the bank organisation also comprises certain separated and delegated commissions and committees to inform periodically the board and take care of key aspects such as internal audit and control, remuneration and risk management. The most important are 32 : (i) executive committee, available in some cases to improve management efficiency and flexibility; (ii) remuneration and appointment commission in order to inform about the general policy on incentives and retribution to members of the board and executive management personnel 33 ; (iii) investment commission to inform about the strategic investment and divestment transactions; and (iv) auditing and control commission, for an adequate identification, control and assessment of all types of risks. Bank Capital Requirements As stated before, since Spain is a member of the EU, capital requirements (and limits to large exposures) are governed by EU directives and more precisely by the CAD. When the CAD was adapted to Basel II, in 2006, the text, especially its annexes, became much more precise from the technical perspective, thus leaving less room for national discretion. The implementation of the CAD 2006 into Spanish law resulted in a text which follows the directive very closely when not literally 34. The situation varied significantly from the enactment of Royal Decree-law 2/2011 which introduced requirements in terms of core capital that go far beyond the EU standard as of the date, and may be seen as an anticipation of Basel III. These requirements do not abrogate EU-Basel II standards but render these irrelevant, since compliance with the core capital ratios imply automatic compliance with the general capital ratios. From the entry into force of the Royal Decree-law 2/2011, banks must meet a capital ratio that is measured in terms of a magnitude named capital principal, roughly equivalent to core capital albeit defined ad hoc, not coincident with either the common equity tier 1 definition in Basel III nor the (several) definitions used by the EBA for the purposes of EU-wide stress tests. As of today (after modifications of the notion introduced by Royal Decree-law 24/2012), capital principal is the sum of (i) share capital, (ii) share premium and reserves, (iii) minority interest stakes in (i) and (ii), (iv) FROB support in forms other than shares and (v) mandatorily convertible instruments less (i) outstanding losses, (ii) intangibles, (iii) some other technical adjustments (basically intra- and crosssector holdings in other banks and insurance companies). Capital principal is to be put in relation with the risk-weighted assets of the bank (measured in accordance with general, Basel II/CAD rules with no significant changes). While initially the actual ratio could be 8% as a general rule or 10% for the majority of savings banks, it was subsequently set at 9% from January 1, 2013 for all institutions. Unlike other EU jurisdictions and following a model which is closer to the US, Spain has quite a quite prescriptive framework of provisioning standards 35. General provisions and rules to account for asset impairment are ultimately set in Bank of Spain s Circular 4/2004 of December 22. Regulations set minimum amounts for provisions depending on the type of loan, guarantee and time of arrears. In addition, banks are obliged to account for supplementary, generic provisions which are forwardlooking in essence and operate counter-cyclically (i.e. the buffer of provisions may decrease as assets get impaired and thus specific provisions are allocated and the other way around). Historically, the framework has been deemed to be over-prudent and therefore it has been said that provisioning rules create a buffer of hidden capitalisation. The depth of the crisis and the damage to assets, especially related to developers, raised serious doubts as to whether the abovementioned statement still held true. Market values were deemed to be below
8 book values for a good number of assets and that undermined confidence. Independent valuations over banks assets were conducted and bottom up exercises per institution in order to determine the true financial image of the Sector. Higher capital ratios were not the right response, since capital calculations depart from a given asset valuation, therefore, regulatory policy shifted in early 2012 to ask for much more demanding provisions for certain assets, as required by Royal Decree-laws 2/2012, 17/2012 and 18/2012. Under these new (extraordinary) rules, average provisions for certain assets such as undeveloped land can go up to 80% of the gross book value, 65% for unfinished residential property and 35% for finished residential property. Rules Governing Banks Relationships with their Customers and Other Third Parties Spanish law provides in general a protective regime to consumers36. When consumers are dealing with credit institutions there is also a special regime to protect the banking customer, both as debtor in loan or credit operations, and as a creditor for his deposits (section 48.2 of Act 26/1988; Ministerial Order EHA/2899/2011 of October 28 on Banking Services Transparency and Customer Protection and Bank of Spain s Circular 5/2012 of June 27, on Transparency of Operations and Customer Protection) 37. The reasoning is that improving the information provided to customers will increase competition among credit entities. As a result, the set of rules mainly (i) requires a written formalisation of the contracts, their delivery to the customer and book-keeping duties; and (ii) assures transparency of the terms and conditions applied to financial products (i.e. fees, interest rates, etc.) by disclosing such information to Bank of Spain and to the general public 38. Such description of characteristics shall be complete, accurate, comprehensive and clear 39. Spanish banks as investment services providers are also subject to MiFid. MiFid covers nearly all transactions on financial products and, among other matters, deals with customer protection. According to MiFid, customers are classified according to their knowledge and experience (investor categorisation) in order to assess their suitability for each financial product 40. During the last years Spanish financial entities have developed significant efforts to deliver appropriate information of their offered products to customers, and to get better understanding of their clients profile in order to classify them according to their characteristics and investment goals. The effects of anti-money-laundering and against terrorism financing provisions in the relationships between banks (both Spanish and EU entities rendering services in Spain) and their customers are also worth mentioning. The third AML Directive was implemented by Act 10/2010 of April 28, but there is also a relevant series of provisions imposing multiple reporting obligations on various grounds, in particular, relating to transactions with foreign counterparties 41. Bank secrecy and bank information have also become major issues under discussion. There is a traditional duty on credit entities and their senior management personnel to safeguard and preserve customers financial information (i.e. balances, products, movements and operations, transactions) strictly confidential, so it shall not be disclosed to third parties (now supported by Act 26/1988 as amended by Act 44/2002), which applies in addition to general personal data protection regulation. However, Spain does not have a strong bank secrecy regime, since the customers privacy rights may be overcome by various prevailing public-interest duties to report to the tax authorities, AML authorities, the supervisor (and, of course, the courts). In this arena, Bank of Spain provides two additional independent public services: (i) Central Information Risk (Central de Información de Riesgos del Banco de España), in short, CIRBE, which is a database managed by Bank of Spain containing all financial transaction involving banks and individuals. As a result, any individual person may check before Bank of Spain about the information they have about himself. All banks that are members of CIRBE may check the database in order to analyse the solvency of a specific customer and their suitability for a product; and (ii) Bank of Spain Claims Service (Servicio de Reclamaciones del Banco de España) 42 which deals with queries and claims from customers in their relationships with credit entities derived from eventual breaches of transparency or customer protection regulation, or of good banking practices and financial usages 43. However, before claiming at Bank of Spain Claims Service, customers shall file their claims within the credit entity through its customer service or internal ombudsman in order to have the opportunity
9 to solve the conflict at a previous stage. For these purposes, consumers may claim before credit entities for facts or events occurred within two years and credit entities shall respond to such claims within two months. During the financial crisis, the banking sector has also been hit by massive litigation involving customers. On one hand, due to the increase of default rates by individuals in residential mortgage loans, the enforcement of mortgages has collapsed Spanish courts in some regions. These judicial proceedings order the eviction of tenants and the immediate sale of the property under an auction process. Evictions are unfortunately massive and have created social concern, forcing the Government to enact Royal Decree-law 27/2012, of November 16, to protect mortgagee debtors. As a result, mortgage enforcement could be suspended or avoided for two years provided that certain requirements are met by the debtor and their family, and banks have adhered to the Good Banking Practices Code in order to provide some flexibility to these dramatic situations. On the other hand, investors in participaciones preferentes (preferred quotas)44 issued by financial institutions have initiated class actions against banks (particularly the Cajas in which FROB intervened) in order to recover the money invested. In the past, Spanish banks have marketed highly subordinated securities intensively among their retail customers. As the contractual clauses that provide for payment deferral started to apply and it was announced that, as a result of burden-sharing provisions (see above) these securities may bear losses, litigation started. Customers and consumers associations have started to sue banks claiming unfair practices in the sale of these and other complex financial instruments. At this stage, it is expected that 50-60% approximately of the investment may be reimbursed to customers. However, the European authorities defend a higher cut off. It is expected that the Government will resolve this conflict by enacting a law during the first quarter of Partly in response to this situation, the Government took advantage of the enactment of Royal Decree-law 24/2012 to tighten the conditions applicable to the distribution of the securities the banks may account for as their own funds for regulatory purposes. From now on, issuances may not be exclusively addressed to the retail market but must have an institutional tranche of at least a 50% of the nominal, distributed among no fewer than 50 investors. The minimum face value of each title will be 100,000 for tier 1 hybrid instruments (participaciones preferentes) and 25,000 for others. On January 2013, Bank of Spain s Circular 4/2012 of April 25 also came into force. It supersedes Circular 6/2000, of October 31 and regulates certain obligations by Spanish residents to communicate their financial transactions with foreign counterparties (for instance, loans and credits between a Spanish company and foreign lender) and balances of their assets and liabilities abroad. Filing of this information before Bank of Spain shall be made online and breaches will be sanctioned. * * * Endnotes 1. This statement does not hold true if wholesale or investment banking activities are taken into account. Foreign banks play a very significant role in these segments. 2. They do not have a capital to remunerate either. After deducting the reserves required by solvency regulations, savings banks use their profits to fund social works. They form a unique mixture of a fully-licensed banking institution with a charitable foundation. 3. Also, since they did not issue vote-bearing securities, no third party could take over them. 4. Please consider that, unless otherwise stated, we use the term bank as comprehensive of the three existing types of banking institutions. 5. A Royal Decree-law is a piece of executive legislation that has the same force as a parliamentary act. It is issued by the government and within 30 days from enactment they must be endorsed by the Congress or is otherwise automatically abrogated. Royal Decree-laws may also, after endorsement, be discussed by the Parliament (i.e. the Congress and the Senate) as a bill and lead to an ordinary act. 6. SAREB stands for Sociedad de Gestión de Activos procedentes de la Reestructuración Bancaria. 7. Section 28 of Credit Institutions Discipline and Intervention Act 26/1988 of July For more information, see the full latest report at:
10 boletines/ Informe_de_Estab/anoactual/ 9. For more information, check the Banco de España s website: 10. Bank of Spain rulings are in the form of Circulares which develop laws under its regulatory scope. 11. As part of the Eurosystem, in its role as a central bank, the Bank of Spain is independent, and not subject to any other executive authority. 12. Although it does not hold any public powers and it is therefore not an authority, it is worth to mention the ICO (Instituto de Crédito Oficial) set up by the Act 13/1971 of June 19, operates as a public credit entity and holds the status of State s Financial Agency. It is controlled by the Ministry of Finance and acts as a financial instrument for extraordinary situations and executes economic measures when required. For more information check: 13. If listed, or in case they issue listed securities of any kind, banks are subject to Securities Markets discipline and regulations on an equal footing with other issuers. 14. Pursuant to the EU directives, banks are, on the basis of their license as such, enabled to provide investment services. 15. SEPBLAC stands for Servicio Ejecutivo de la Comisión de Prevención del Blanqueo de Capitales e Infracciones Monetarias. For more information check: 16. For more information check: 17. On 24 November 2010, the Council and the European Parliament officially adopted Directive 2010/76/EU, the Capital Requirements Directive (CRD III) implemented in Spain through Royal Decree-law 9/ Spain is a member of the Basel Committee. 19. The Committee of European Banking Supervisors (CEBS), the Committee of European Securities Regulators (CESR) and the Committee of European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Supervisors (CEIOPS). 20. Please note that, save what will come next about savings banks, we omit references to acts governing structural matters relating to each type of banking institution (for banks, as companies, it would be the Companies Act). 21. It also implements the CAD for investment services companies other than banks. 22. Act 9/2012 has been developed by Royal Decree 1559/2012 of November 15 on the Regime of Asset Management Companies. 23. The most relevant of these are: the accounting regulation (4/2004), the solvency regulation (3/2008) and the credit register regulation (3/1995), but there are many others. 24. For further study we recommend to review the summary prepared by F. Vicent Chuliá in its Mercantile Law Manual (Introducción al Derecho Mercantil, Volume II, 23 Edition, Tirant lo Blanch, Valencia 2012 pages ). 25. The savings banks equivalent of the Companies Act is the Savings Banks Management Bodies Act 31/1985, of August 2. However, since savings banks are subject to regional law, the latter (which is a State act) operates as a framework, basic act ( ley básica ) and each region has enacted its own legislation, not differing much in the substance. 26. Cuotas existed prior to the introduction of the Royal-decree law, but they were non-voting. Only a savings bank issued cuotas. 27. Control was initially made equivalent to holding a 50% stake or more. A subsequent reform set the share threshold at 25%, to the extent control may be exercised through alternative means. Control over a bank may also be exercised by more than one savings bank if they reach a shareholders agreement among them to exercise such control jointly. 28. The FROB received an initial 9bn capital and was allowed to issue debt up to 10 times such amount. 29. As a result nearly all Cajas contribute their banking business to public companies (SAs) and become their shareholders. More than 30 Cajas participate in merger transactions. Thus, the Sector moved from 45 to 22 Cajas in few months. 30. Caja Castilla-La Mancha, Cajasur, Caja del Mediterráneo, Novagalicia Banco, Unnim Banc, Catalunya Banc, BFA-Bankia and Banco de Valencia. 31. Until recently, saving banks (Cajas) and banks were the predominant players in the Spanish banking and credit market. However, as a result of the Banking Sector restructuring, all saving banks have been transformed either on banks or special foundations. Therefore, we will focus generally on management of banks. 32. On 27 June 2012, Bank of Spain upheld the EBA Guidelines on Internal Governance (GL44).
11 33. Following recommendations under the Unified Good Governance Code of Listed Companies dated May 2006 and additional EU recommendations in On 5 December 2011 Bank of Spain upheld CEBS Guidelines on Remuneration Policies and Practices (10 December 2010). Same principles included later in Act 2/2011 on Sustainable Economy (article 27). 34. As stated in CAD, Bank of Spain s Circular 3/2008, regulates that risk exposure to one single third party individual or economic conglomerate cannot exceed 25% of the bank s capital principal (own funds) which will be lowered to 20% if risks are before non consolidated entities but there is control as defined in article 42 of the Spanish Commercial Code. In addition, the overall amount of the large risk exposures of a bank (defined as those which exceed 10% of its capital principal according to the applicable legislation at that time) cannot exceed 8 times the bank s own funds. 35. But for the recommendations of the Basel Committee, provisioning issues are treated in most jurisdictions as a purely accounting matter and thus left to accounting standards. In Spain, given that the Bank of Spain is also an accounting standards-setter for banks, the matter is de facto part of the supervisory/regulatory policy. 36. Mainly, Royal Legislative Decree 1/2007 of November 16 on Protection of Consumers and Users; Act 34/2002 of July 11 on Electronic Commerce (implementing Directive 2000/31/CE of June 8); Act 28/1998 of July 13 on Sale on Instalments; Act 7/1996 on Retail Commerce (as amended by Act 47/2002 of December 19) and Act 7/1998, on General Contractual Conditions (as amended by Act 44/2006 of December 29, on Improvement of the Protection of Consumers and Users). 37. In addition, other special protective provisions are included in Act 16/2011 of June 24, on Consumer Credit Contracts; and Act 16/2009 of November 13, on Payment Services. 38. Order EHA/1718/2010, of June 11, on regulation and control of marketing of financial products and services; and Order EHA/1608/2010, of June 19, on Transparency of Fees and Information Requirements Applicable to Payment Services. 39. Section 29 of Act 2/2011 of March 4, on Sustainable Economy, has reinforced the protection to customers of financial services by requiring financial entities to provide them with all necessary pre-contractual information and adequate explanations to duly assess if the offered products match their requirements and the eventual effects in case of non-payment. 40. Act 2/2011 on Sustainable Economy regulates the bank s liability as lender to consumers and imposes the duty to conduct adequate assessment on customer s solvency following the criteria established by the Ministry of Finance (Order EHA/2899/2011 of October 28 on Banking Services Transparency and Customer Protection) in order to guarantee the protection to consumers and users of financial services provided by credit institutions. Bank of Spain s Circular 5/2012 of June 27 deals with the same principles. 41. On Anti-money-laundering and against terrorism financing see also Royal Decree 925/1995 of June 9, Bank of Spain s Circular 4/2012 and Resolution dated on 10 August 2012 of the Secretary General of the Treasury and Financial Policy. 42. For more information, please review the Annual Report available at: secciones/informes/ Publicaciones_an/Memoria_del_Serv/anoactual/ 43. According to Bank of Spain s information, in 2011 there were claims, queries online and phone queries. 44. Participaciones preferentes or preferred quotas are a sort of perpetual (subordinated) debt which was issued by many Spanish credit entities in order to obtain funding and improve their capital ratios. Commercialisation of this product was intense by retail banking. Many investors were not aware of the risks involved and as a result of the financial crisis and collapse of some of the financial entities, the value of this product has plummeted.
12 Fernando Mínguez Hernández Tel: / Mr. Mínguez is currently on leave from his position as inspector of credit and savings institutions at the Bank of Spain, Spain's banking supervisory authority. Before joining Cuatrecasas, Gonçalves Pereira, he developed his career at the Bank of Spain, first as a field inspector, and later analysing and advising on Spanish and international regulation. He is a renowned expert in all areas of banking and finance, particularly in the administrative regulations applicable to credit institutions. He mainly focuses on advising credit institutions (banks, savings banks, credit unions, and branches of foreign entities in Spain) on corporate and institutional matters on an ongoing basis, advising them on the applicable administrative regime and on transactions in which sectoral regulations play an important role. Recently, he has been involved in the structuring and incorporation of the Spanish bad bank. Íñigo de Luisa Maíz Tel: / Mr de Luisa is a partner of Cuatrecasas, Gonçalves Pereira, Madrid office. Since 1996 he specialises in banking and financing transactions, particularly those with international exposure. He has ample experience in leveraged and acquisition finance, corporate finance, project finance, etc. His sector expertise covers a wide range of asset classes, with a strong focus on real estate, energy and infrastructure. He has also advised on complex restructuring and refinancing deals at pre-insolvency stages and participated in several transactions to acquire distressed debt and nonperforming loans (NPLs). More recently, he has been involved in the incorporation of the Spanish bad bank and its transfer of impaired assets. From 1999 to 2000, he was an international associate in the banking group of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett in New York. From 2006 to 2008, he was based at Cuatrecasas, Gonçalves Pereira s London office, where he was responsible for the finance practice.