Italy PM’s party presents bill to split retail and investment banks

Updated: Mar 30, 2023, 09:16 UTC

ROME (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's party has presented a bill in parliament to separate retail and investment banks - a move that, it approved, would force a radical overhaul of the country's banking sector.

Italy's Prime Minister Meloni attends question time at the lower house of parliament, in Rome

By Giuseppe Fonte and Alvise Armellini

ROME (Reuters) -Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s party has presented a bill in parliament to separate retail and investment banks in a move that, if approved, would force a radical overhaul of the country’s banking sector.

The proposal by the Brothers of Italy (FdI) party comes in the wake of the collapse of U.S. tech lender Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) and the emergency takeover of Credit Suisse by banking rival UBS, which raised fears of systemic stress that could lead to more bank failures.

The draft law, seen by Reuters on Wednesday, would give banks 12 months to reorganise their operations and choose between commercial and financial investment activities.

Quietly introduced to the lower house of parliament on March 17, the bill is sponsored by the head of FdI in the lower Chamber of Deputies, Tommaso Foti, and 14 party colleagues, including former Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti.

FdI proposed a near-identical law in 2018, when the party was in opposition and with Meloni as the bill’s chief sponsor, but it did not go past committee stage and never reached the floor of the house for approval.

“We believe that the issue is worthy of attention and therefore we have decided to present the bill again,” Foti told Reuters.

“Meloni’s office was not informed about the legislative proposal as parliamentary initiatives are distinct from government ones,” Foti said, adding he was confident the bill could be successful.

Meloni’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the government’s view of the bill.

Details of the bill were first reported by Italian business daily MF.

The overhaul would de-facto reintroduce 1930s-era legislation scrapped in the 1990s by deregulation reforms that some left- and right-wing politicians blame for contributing to recent financial crises.

Allowing retail banks to engage in “speculative trading” is “dramatically negative for the real economy and undermines the most elementary principles of safeguard for the social and ethical foundation of the economy,” the FdI bill states.

In the United States, calls for similar reforms, with the reintroduction of the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act that separated commercial and investment banking before World War Two, have come from left-wingers within the Democratic Party, such as Senator Elizabeth Warren.

(Reporting by Giuseppe Fonte and Alvise Armellini, editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Keith Weir)

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