Economy minister gets his way as banking lobby’s choice turns top job down

Former Bank of Spain official opts not to become AEB chief as it would be counterproductive to go over De Guindos’ head

Former Bank of Spain director for regulation and financial stability José María Roldán has decided not to accept the position of chairman of the Spanish Banking Association (AEB), the lobby for the country’s commercial banks, after the Economy Ministry raised objections to his appointment.

Economy Minister Luis de Guindos had expressed his “deep concern” about the appointment to a private sector financial association of a former central bank official who had overseen the banking sector during a time in which it required 60 billion euros in public aid.

Sources close to AEB had described De Guindos’ objections as “unheard of” and described his attitude as one of interference in the affairs of the private sector.

Banking sources said Roldán believed it did not make sense for him to continue with his candidacy because the objections of the ministry would considerably limit his effectiveness in the post.

Guindos has not made known his arguments in a clear way to see if they are valid”

The sources insisted that Roldán fulfills all of the requirements of the post both legally and ethically but acknowledged that “it is not practical to maintain him in a post against the judgment of the Economy Minister when they are so many rules and regulations regarding the sector to be negotiated.”

The discontent of the commercial banking community about the developments surrounding Roldán’s appointment remain palpable. “Guindos has not made known his arguments in a clear way to see if they are valid or not,” the sources said. They pointed out that De Guindos had also vetoed the appointment of José Manuel Campa for the post because he served in the Socialist government of Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. “It seems he wants to name the ideal candidate for the AEB,” the sources said.

Roldán had the backing of the chairmen of Spain’s five biggest commercial banks (Santander, BBVA, Popular, Sabadell and Bankinter), which account for about 90 percent of the sector.

De Guindos’ opposition also puts the governor of the Bank of Spain, Luis Linde, in a delicate situation because of his implicit support for Roldán’s candidacy.

The row also puts the governor of the Bank of Spain in a delicate situation

De Guindos on Tuesday announced the government’s intention to raise the level of incompatibilities of the central bank to those of the state. This in practice would mean barring a former Bank of Spain official from holding a post in the private sector that has to do with his activities at the central bank for two years after leaving the regulator, rather than six months as is currently the case. The new regulation will not be made retroactive and, therefore, would not affect Roldán, who is now an economist at the central bank’s research department.

De Guindos said Tuesday he would not enter into the “evaluation” of the appointments made by private sector bodies such as the AEB, insisting that the government “does not react to specific questions.”

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