Thursday, December 15, 2005

Long time, no see

Our good friends Fazio and Fiorani are back in the news. The other day, the former CEO of Banca Popolare Italiana was arrested:
Italian authorities on Tuesday night detained Gianpiero Fiorani, the former head of a bank at the centre of a European cross-border takeover controversy that has engulfed Italy’s central bank and Antonio Fazio, its governor.
Mr Fiorani was placed in custody on the same day the European Commission in Brussels announced it would take legal action against Italy for its handling of the takeover affair.
Mr Fiorani, a family friend of Mr Fazio, was already under investigation by Italian magistrates for suspected financial offences in the way that Banca Popolare Italiana, the bank of which he was chairman, tried to acquire Banca Antonveneta, another Italian bank earlier this year.
BPI was eventually forced to give up its bid in favour of ABN Amro, a Dutch bank that had claimed its takeover campaign was being unfairly obstructed.
Mr Fiorani was placed in custody on suspicion of embezzlement, market manipulation and association with criminal intent. However, he has not yet been formally charged with any offence.
Also detained were Gianfranco Boni, BPI’s former financial director, and Silvano Spinelli, another former BPI executive.
The close relationship between Mr Fazio and Mr Fiorani was exposed in July when the Italian media published transcripts of telephone conversations, taped on magistrates’ orders, that showed the two men discussing the Bank of Italy’s approval for BPI’s bid for Antonveneta before the central bank had officially notified financial markets.
Though appalling, I think Fiorani's conduct pales with respect to the behaviour of Antonio Fazio. As central banker, Fazio was (and inexplicably still is) a public figure with virtually absolute and unfettered regulatory power over several important aspects of the Italian market. This privileged position of influence brings with it increased responsibility, and it is Fazio's fault - not Fiorani's - that Italy has the highest banking fees in the world.
At any rate, if the Italian people cannot muster sufficient outrage to get rid of him, then I guess we deserve him. And I'm suffering of "outrage fatigue."

No comments: