Many of these banks are implicated in the biggest financial crimes.
No single institution has more influence over the lives of European citizens than the European Central Bank. It sets the interest rates for the 19 Member States of the Eurozone, with a combined population of 341 million people. Every month it issues billions of euros of virtually interest-free loans to hard-up financial institutions while splashing €60 billion each month on sovereign and corporate bonds as part of its QE program, thanks to which it now boasts the biggest balance sheet of any central bank on Planet Earth.
Through its regulatory arm, the Single Supervisory Mechanism, it decides which struggling banks in the Eurozone get to live or die and which lucky competitor gets to pick up the pieces afterwards, without taking on the otherwise unknown risks.
In short, the ECB wields a bewildering amount of power and influence over Europe’s financial system. But how does it reach the decisions it makes? Who has the ECB’s institutional ear?
The ECB has 22 advisory boards with 517 seats in total that provide ECB decision-makers with recommendations on all aspects of EU monetary policy. A new report by the non-profit research and campaign group Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) reveals that 508 of the 517 available seats are assigned to representatives of private financial institutions.
In other words, 98% of the ECB’s external advisors have some sort of skin in the game. Of the nine seats not taken by the financial sector, seven have gone to non-financial companies such as German industrial giant Siemens and just two to consumer groups, according to the CEO report.
In response to questions by CEO, the ECB said that its advisory groups help it to gather information, effectively “discharge its mandate”, and “explain its policy decisions to citizens.”
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