Following the June 2012 European Council decision to place the ‘Single Supervisory Mechanism’ (SSM) within the European Central Bank, the general presumption in the policy discussions has been that there should be ‘Chinese walls’ between the supervisory and monetary policy arms of the ECB. The current legislative proposal, in fact, is explicit on this account. On the contrary, however, this paper finds that there is no need to impose a strict separation between these two functions. The authors argue, in fact, that a strict separation of supervision and monetary policy is not even desirable during a financial crisis when the systemic stability of the financial system represents the biggest threat to a monetary policy that aims at price stability. In their view, the key problem hampering the ECB today is that it lacks detailed information on the state of health of the banking system, which is often highly confidential. Chinese walls would not solve this problem.
Moreover, in light of the fact that the new, proposed Supervisory Board will be composed to a large extent of representatives of the same institutions that also dominate the Governing Council, the paper finds that it does not make sense to have Chinese walls between two boards with largely overlapping memberships. In addition, it recommends that some members of the Supervisory Boards should be “independents” in order to reduce the tendency of supervisors to unduly delay the recognition of losses.
Thorsten Beck is Chairman of the Board of the European Banking Center, Tilburg University. Daniel Gros is Director of the Centre for European Policy Studies. This paper was originally prepared at the request of the European Parliament's Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs as a background document for its Monetary Dialogue with the European Central Bank.