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Dutch Bailouts of ING, ABN Amro ‘Large Errors’: Committee

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A parliamentary committee in the Netherlands said that the country’s government made “large errors” when it bailed out ING Groep, ABN Amro Holding and Fortis in 2008 and 2009, and those errors put taxpayers on the hook for greater risk and cost.

Bloomberg reported Wednesday that the lawmaker Jan de Wit, who led an investigation into the measures taken by the Dutch government in its efforts to rescue the Dutch units of Fortis, submitted his report in The Hague after the confidential interrogation of 71 people under oath.

In the report, de Wit said Fortis’s problems were in large part connected with its joint takeover of ABN Amro in a consortium with Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) and Banco Santander in 2007. Neither the Dutch central bank nor the Finance Ministry should have approved such a move, de Wit said. RBS got its own bailout by the British government after the takeover.

The Dutch government bought Fortis’ Dutch banking and insurance units and its stake in ABN Amro for 16.8 billion euros ($22 billion) in October 2008 after the company ran out of short-term funding. Customers were pulling their deposits and investors were fleeing, and the move was made to steady the financial system. But more aid was required, and the bailout cost eventually reached approximately 30 billion euros.

“The risks the state took upon itself were large and not transparent,” de Wit said in a statement. “Execution of the rescue plans was lacking. Valuations used were incomplete and inaccurate.” He added that the exchange of information among the Finance Ministry, its adviser Lazard and the Dutch central bank was also “insufficient.”

The committee also had words of criticism for the ING bailout. ING was the recipient of a bailout of some 10 billion euros in October 2008, and then, in January of 2009, transferred its risk on 21.6 billion euros in U.S. mortgage assets to the Dutch government.

“The reserved attitude of the ministry of finance toward accepting a direct solution of the U.S. mortgage portfolio led to a non-optimal outcome for both the state and ING, with far-reaching consequences for ING and higher risk for the taxpayer than needed,” de Wit said of that action.

The study also provided a number of recommendations, which include setting up a European supervisor and also putting in place so-called ring-fencing of banks’ operations outside Europe.


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