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Poland: Creation of Special Stabilization Fund from New Fee on Banks

(Jan. 16, 2013) On January 2, 2013, the Polish Cabinet approved a proposal put forward by the Minister of Finance to create a special stabilization fund based on contributions from banks with operations in Poland. The banks are protesting the proposal on the grounds that it constitutes the imposition of a “pseudo tax” the government contends the new fee will promote public confidence in the institutions. (Polish Cabinet Approves Finance Minister’s Proposal to Tax Banks, GAZETA WYBORCZA ONLINE (Jan. 3, 2013), Open Source Center online subscription database, No. EUP20130103232004.) A government press release was quoted as stating, “creation of a stabilization fund should increase the confidence among companies and households in the banking sector. In the future, moneys from the fund could likewise be used for restructuring banks and their ordered liquidation (called ‘resolution’).” (Id.)

Creation of the contribution requirement would entail amendment of the Act on the Bank Guarantee Fund, which came into force on February 17, 1995. (Id.; Consolidated Text of the Act on the Bank Guarantee Fund, Bank Guarantee Fund website (last visited Jan. 11, 2013). According to an opinion on the draft law sought by the Polish Minister of Finance and provided by the European Central Bank, the monies would be collected as a sub-fund of the Bank Guarantee Fund. In addition, the proposal would amend the Law of February 12, 2010, on the Recapitalization of Certain Financial Institutions. (Opinion of the European Central Bank of 19 November 2012 on a Stabilisation Fund for Banks (CON/2012/91), European Central Bank website.)

The press release does not indicate the form that a new fund would take. In 2011, the Minister of Finance indicated that the banks would simply pay a higher contribution to the Bank Guarantee Fund, but in August 2012, the Ministry of Finance announced a version of the reform that included the notion of the payment of another separate fee, to be imposed twice a year, in addition to the payments banks already make to the Bank Guarantee Fund. Reportedly, the government adopted this version of the reform, but with the loophole that the fee might be pegged at a lower rate than the maximum that had been posited. (Polish Cabinet Approves Finance Minister’s Proposal to Tax Banks, supra.)

According to the banking industry, the idea of an additional fee was “dreamt out of thin air,” given the long slump in the credit market and the fact that the country’s Financial Supervision Authority has been “easing up on recommendations that since 2009 have been excessively hampering banks” and even recently recommended that it be possible for certain banks to limit paying out dividends. (Id.) The banks contend that the tax would make it harder for them to cumulate profits and generate more capital and argue that, unlike some other European countries that introduced bank taxes because taxpayers had bailed out collapsing banks, “no bank in Poland took even a penny of public money, and we have Europe’s strongest guarantee fund for paying out deposits in the event banks get into trouble.” (Id.)

The draft amendment, after being submitted to Poland’s Parliament, must be approved by the President. If approved, it will come into effect 30 days after being promulgated in the Dziennik UstawRzeczypospolitej Polskiej (Journal of Laws of the Republic of Poland), the country’s authoritative official gazette. (Id.)