Skip to main content

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated Cookie policy, Privacy policy and Terms & Conditions

acharya1_Drew Angerer_Getty Images_stock market Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Turning Off the Dividend Spigot

As European regulators search for solutions to poor bank performance, they should consider banks’ revenue distribution as part of the problem. If under-capitalized banks had not been paying out dividends in recent years, they would have retained enough equity to reduce today's capital shortfalls significantly.

NEW YORK – European banks’ high litigation and restructuring costs have resulted in major losses on their books and abysmal stock-market performance. As the industry and European regulators now reflect on this dismal state of affairs and search for solutions, they should consider banks’ revenue distribution – including employee bonuses and shareholder dividends – as part of the problem.

Revenue distribution is one primary reason for European banks’ capital shortfalls. To understand why, we should look back to October 2014, when the European Banking Authority began balance-sheet stress tests for the eurozone’s largest 123 banks and found a capital shortfall of €25 billion ($28 billion) in all of them.

At the time, the EBA required the banks to devise plans to address their respective shortfalls within 6-9 months. Some banks took action and raised equity through rights issues, sometimes with substantial help from governments. But most banks mollified regulators by simply shedding riskier assets to improve their capital ratios.

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.

Subscribe

Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.

https://prosyn.org/Aq7IHCJ;
  1. skidelsky147_Christoph Soederpicture alliance via Getty Images_policechristmasmarketgermany Christoph Soeder/picture alliance via Getty Images

    The Terrorism Paradox

    Robert Skidelsky

    As the number of deaths from terrorism in Western Europe declines, public alarm about terrorist attacks grows. But citizens should stay calm and not give governments the tools they increasingly demand to win the “battle” against terrorism, crime, or any other technically avoidable misfortune that life throws up.

    1