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German banks put up language barrier against ECB supervision

Mis à jour : 22 Avr 2016

By Francesco Canepa

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - German banks and their chief supervisor, the European Central Bank, don't speak the same language -- in most cases literally.

Almost all German banks directly supervised by the ECB have chosen to communicate with the watchdog in German rather than English, the ECB's working language, according to information obtained by Reuters from the ECB and the lenders.

The refusal to speak English, the lingua franca of international finance, illustrates continued resistance from the euro zone's most economically powerful country to the ECB's project to establish itself as the bloc's main bank supervisor -- one of the pillars of Europe's response to the financial crisis that began in 2008.
"To a certain extent it has to do with the sense of importance of the German banking system," a German corporate lawyer who works with banks said. "They say, 'We're the biggest jurisdiction in the euro zone and the seat of the ECB - why can't the ECB communicate in German with us?'"
The ECB and its Italian president, Mario Draghi, have come under renewed criticism in Germany over the central bank's cheap-money policy.
German lenders, equally, resent instructions from Frankfurt and many hope that maintaining German as the language for communication will give them the upper hand in dealing with supervisors. "We outsource the risk of a wrong translation to the ECB," a German bank executive said.