EU to review bonuses at state-aided banks – competition regulator

By Reuters Staff
September 11, 2009

European Commissioner for Competition Neelie Kroes speaks during a news conference at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels July 8,2009. BRUSSELS, Sept 11 (Reuters) – European Union competition regulators are set to take a closer look at bonuses at state-aided banks, the EU’s antitrust chief said on Friday.

“One element we pay attention to is notably the remuneration incentive structure … to verify whether it promotes the beneficiary’s long-term profitability,” European Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said in the text of a speech at a conference in Fiesole, Italy.

She said many EU governments had provided commitments to the European Union executive in the past six months on how to frame bonuses and pay in banks, the recipients of billions of euros in state aid since the credit crisis worsened in late 2008.

Finance ministers from the Group of 20 developing and developed economies sought a consensus on plans to rein in bankers’ bonuses at a meeting in London last weekend.

Lenders bailed out by governments include Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, Lloyds Banking Group Plc, Dexia SA, Fortis SA/NV and Commerzbank AG.

Kroes also defended her policy of fining companies that breach strict EU competition rules, which critics say need to take into account the economic crisis.

“I’ve heard some criticisms of our fining approach in recent months. It is appropriate to remind our critics that we always operate well within our legal limits and that an alternative to fines is criminal sanctions,” she said.

The Commission imposed a 1.06 billion euro ($1.6 billion) fine on Intel Corp, the world’s largest chipmaker, in May for illegal efforts to squeeze out arch-rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. It was the largest fine it has imposed on a company.

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