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French banks sue ECB over capital demands

BNP Paribas SA, Société Générale SA, Crédit Agricole SA and Crédit Mutuel Group are among a number of French banks that filed lawsuits against the European Central Bank as they seek exemption from having to hold capital against deposits held in a government-backed fund, Reuters reported Dec. 20, citing filings with the European Court of Justice.

"Sources with direct knowledge of the cases" told the newswire that the lenders are contesting the ECB's directive that they set aside capital against deposits they make from regulated savings accounts at state-owned Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations, which utilizes those funds to invest in public projects such as housing. The banks argue that their exposure to CDC should not be included in their leverage ratio calculation, citing a European Commission act that states that exemptions may be granted for "deposits that the institution is legally obliged to transfer to (a) public sector entity … for the purposes of funding general interest investments."

The new EU rules are to be fully implemented in 2018. However, according to "a source close to the ECJ," a ruling on the lawsuits could take about two years, meaning that a decision would likely come only after the phasing in of the leverage ratio rule had commenced.

La Banque Postale SA and Groupe BPCE have also filed legal complaints against the ECB.