On December 30, 2015, a European Central Bank Recommendation on dividend distribution policies for Eurozone banks was published in the Official Journal of the European Union. The Recommendation is aimed at significant supervised entities (i.e. significant banks) and significant supervised groups (each as defined in the Single Supervisory Mechanism Framework Regulation) as well as national regulators. Under the SSM Regulation, the ECB is responsible for the direct prudential supervision of significant Eurozone banks. The Recommendation states that banks must use conservative and prudent assumptions when establishing dividend policies so that any applicable capital requirements, for example minimum capital requirements or countercyclical capital and systemic buffers, are still met after any distribution. The Recommendation also makes suggestions for different categories of banks paying dividends for the 2015 financial year in 2016: (i) banks that satisfy the applicable capital requirements and have reached their fully loaded (i.e. calculated without applying the transitional provisions as set out in the Capital Requirements Regulation) capital ratios as at December 31, 2015 should distribute net profits in dividends conservatively; (ii) banks that satisfy the applicable capital requirements, but have not reached their fully loaded ratios as at December 31, 2015 should distribute net profits in dividends conservatively and in principle should only pay out dividends if a linear path to the required loaded capital requirements is secured; and (iii) banks that do not satisfy the applicable capital requirements should not distribute dividends. The Recommendation also states that should a bank not be able to comply with the ECB’s Recommendation due to a legal obligation to pay out dividends, it should contact its supervisory team immediately.

The Recommendation is available at: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legalcontent/EN/ALL/?uri=uriserv:OJ.C_.2015.438.01.0001.01.ENG