“Opaque transparency”: Bank regulator reveals ‘largest debtors’… in code

After weeks and months of paper-shuffling, Portugal’s banking regulator the Bank of Portugal has made public the list of large debtors that MPs so vociferously demanded.

These are the account holders whose poor compliance – or total absence of compliance – over loans ceded in the last 12 years led to eight national banks requiring ‘injections’ of taxpayers’ money to the tune of 24 billion euros.

CGD, Novo Banco, BCP, BPI, BES, Banif, BPN and BPP – the dismal list of unrecovered debt is there for all to see, as long as people can decipher the codes.

Say pundits, it’s “opaque transparency” at its best.

Radio commentator and writer Jacinto Lucas Pires suggests it’s “essential that we know what is being done with everyone’s money, which should be used for the common good in other ways”.

The list – aside from not revealing names – also falls short of exposing the banking bosses who approved these ‘catastrophic loans’.

The Bank of Portugal is “meant to be the policeman of the country’s banks”, said commentator Henrique Raposo (Rádio Renascença). But instead it has become more of a revolving door.

Certain people “work for the Bank of Portugal, then they work for a bank, and then they return” (to the Bank of Portugal). It is all very unclear”, he told the station.

Expresso adds that the Bank of Portugal believes its coded list should be read “with care” – adding that it takes no responsibility for the enormous costs that hit the country’s taxpayers.

Responsibility lies squarely with the banks themselves, said a communiqué issued by the banking regulator.

Topping the feeling of ‘opaque transparency’, Expresso explains that Carlos Costa, the governor of the Bank of Portugal, has “withdrawn from the topic”, leaving his second-in-command, Elisa Ferreira, to answer journalists’ questions.

It is not the first time that Costa has ‘excused himself’ from situations that many believe should have been part of his (highly paid) brief (click here).

Needless to say, sleuths have managed to interpret parts of the list.

Greece and BES Angola are among the 128 ‘economic groups’ responsible for the billions in losses, and “there are some conclusions” that can be drawn.

These include the fact that in the case of Banif, for example – the Madeiran bank that collapsed in 2015 involving State intervention to the tune of over three billion euros – the largest debtors “had no guarantees associated with them” – meaning loans were given without any security.

The full implications of the list are still being analysed, but all financial papers agree “they are complex”, says the paper.

What is certain is that MPs have stopped short at accusing the Bank of Portugal of reckless management. It’s a label the centre-right was hoping for, but which left-wingers opposed – preferring the gentler term of “imprudent”.

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