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Italian central bank head defends supervision, blames bank collapses on economy

Banca D'Italia SpA Governor Ignazio Visco attributed the collapse of various Italian lenders in recent years to the "inevitable consequence of the deep, double-dip recession" that struck Italy's economy, instead of negligent supervision from the central bank, Reuters reported Dec. 19.

Visco, who was addressing a special parliamentary commission, said the central bank had not acted late in averting bank scandals and did not underestimate the effect of the economic downturn on banks' assets and balance sheets.

"It was not inattentive supervision that determined the evolution of the Italian financial system, but the worst economic crisis in the history of our country," he added, according to the Financial Times. "There was bad management at some of the banks — and we highlighted it — but the very serious economic conditions made pathological situations explode."

Visco's remarks came after Italian Economy Minister Pier Carlo Padoan told the same committee on Dec. 18 that the central bank could have done better in supervising the country's banking sector, where many lenders collapsed and thousands of savers lost cash, according to another Reuters report.

The collapse of Veneto Banca SpA and Banca Popolare di Vicenza SpA were cited by Padoan as examples where the central bank's regulation had been lacking, and he also said the Italian government had reappointed Visco for a second six-year term at the central bank to provide stability to financial markets.

Meanwhile, Padoan said he did not authorize Maria Elena Boschi, a member of the Italian Democratic Party, to act in an effort to save ailing lender Banca Etruria. The bank, which is now called Nuova Banca dell’Etruria e del Lazio SpA, had Boschi's father as an employee, and the rescue attempt has been seen as a conflict of interest by opposition parties.