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Delays in implementing new European rules for bank failure could pose a risk to investors in the continent’s financial institutions, Moody’s said on Thursday.


European regulators have since 2016 forced banks to issue special debt designed to absorb losses at times of distress. The measures are a response to the financial crisis, when taxpayer funds were used to bail out struggling institutions even as many bank bonds were left untouched.

The rules, referred to as “minimum requirement for own funds and eligible liabilities” (MREL), aim to introduce a class of bonds able to absorb major losses during a so-called “bail-in”.

However, divergent approaches to the rules across Europe have generated significant confusion among investors. Moody’s report is the latest to highlight the complications over the regulatory push, identifying a possible “credit negative” for holders of senior bonds due to uncertainty, and delays in targets for issuing banks.

“Creditors of banks continue to lack certainty over the extent to which liabilities may be expected to absorb losses in a bail-in,” the rating agency wrote on Thursday.

Moody’s added that one reason for the delays was the desire of regulators “to be consistent within Europe and internationally”.

Different European countries have come up with different approaches to meeting the requirements, which involve lowering the position of senior bonds relative to depositors. In Germany, the law has been changed, while French banks, under new legislation, have issued special senior debt to meet the requirements.

Banking systems in several countries, such as the Netherlands, have not yet finalised their approach.

The rating agency said that greater harmonization across Europe, an idea promoted by the European Commission last year, would represent a “credit positive”.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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