Dutch inquiry slams authorities over bank rescues

AMSTERDAM, April 11 Wed Apr 11, 2012 6:15am EDT

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AMSTERDAM, April 11 (Reuters) - The Dutch central bank and finance ministry made serious mistakes in the multi-billion-euro rescues of Dutch lenders ABN AMRO and ING during the financial crisis, a parliamentary inquiry said on Wednesday.

The Netherlands paid out nearly 40 billion euros ($52 billion) to rescue its domestic financial sector when the credit crisis swept the globe in 2008. Both ABN AMRO and ING, which had ranked among the world's top banks, were crippled.

ABN AMRO had to be nationalised, and the finance ministry plans eventually to privatise it, while ING has been steadily selling off assets to repay the state and separate its banking and insurance operations.

"Both financial institutions ran into serious problems in the autumn of 2008 through their own actions, thereby jeopardising financial stability in the Netherlands," the Committee of Parliamentary Inquiry into the Financial System said in its final report.

"The ministry of finance and the Dutch central bank (DNB) were insufficiently prepared for a crisis of such magnitude, and they were overwhelmed," it said, adding that during the rescue, parliament had received "late and incomplete information".

Both the finance ministry, under then-finance minister Wouter Bos, and the central bank, headed at the time by Nout Wellink, were strongly criticised in the report.

Bos, a Labour politician, later joined consultancy KPMG while Wellink's term at the central bank was not renewed.

"The minister of finance at that time did not provide timely and/or complete information to the house of representatives, thus impeding the house in its role of holding the government to account," the report said.

"In nearly all cases, the minister did not inform the house of representatives about crisis measures that had been taken until after the fact."

The inquiry said supervision of both Fortis and ABN AMRO had failed, and that the central bank and finance minister were wrong to allow ABN AMRO's takeover by Royal Bank of Scotland , Santander and Fortis in 2007.

"The risks assumed by the state were great, and they were not transparent. The implementation of the bailout plan was flawed in many ways," the inquiry said, adding that the bailouts ended up costing taxpayers more than necessary.

($1 = 0.7644 euros) (Reporting by Sara Webb; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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