The financial crisis, which many initially viewed as a crisis of confidence caused by a loss of trust in banks, has developed into a full-fledged economic crisis, resulting in worldwide redundancies and a reduction in the purchasing capacity of consumers and companies alike. We are a good way into the crisis and there is still no end in sight. The first signs of recovery are expected by year’s end or early next year, although it will take years for the economy to reach the same level it was a few years ago.
Substantial taxpayer funds have been used to keep financial institutions afloat. This has resulted in governments appointing directors or participating directly in the management of banks and other financial institutions when the state acquires a majority or minority shareholding, as the case may be. Moreover, in certain cases, minority shareholder suits have made it difficult for majority shareholders and governments to put their plans into practice. At the political level, means of curtailing litigation and even prohibiting individuals, whether creditors or shareholders, from challenging certain recovery measures are being discussed.
At the EU level, greater oversight by national financial supervisory authorities, combined with stronger EU supervision has been proposed (see e.g., the de Larosière plan). However, it is not intended to transfer supervisory powers to the relevant European authorities (with the exception of those with European-wide activities, such as credit-rating agencies and clearing and settlement houses) but rather to entrust these authorities with a coordinating role in relation to the national supervisors. The creation of this new model is currently being discussed at the EU level.
At the G20 summit held in London on 2 April 2009, the OECD discussed how to curb bank secrecy in order to enhance transparency on the financial markets. Other measures were proposed to facilitate the exchange of information in order to assess the tax situation of individuals and businesses. These measures are discussed in this issue.
It is generally believed that hedge funds helped aggravate the financial crisis and therefore should be subject to greater regulation. The European Commission recently proposed a directive to regulate the managers of alternative investment funds, including private equity, commodity funds and real estate funds. This proposal is discussed in this issue.
In the meantime, businesses need to cope with the crisis on a daily basis. The law can be an effective tool in this respect. Last week, a bill containing several provisions on employment in times of crisis was approved by the Council of Ministers. These provisions form part of a larger array of initiatives and are intended to prevent structural dismissals, insofar as possible.