EU regulator and bankers to joust over bonus cap

LONDON, April 3 Wed Apr 3, 2013 7:36am EDT

LONDON, April 3 (Reuters) - The European Union's banking regulator will decide over the coming months which bankers should have bonuses capped, raising hopes among lenders that the rules can be eased before they take effect in 2014.

The EU approved a law to cap bonuses at no more than fixed salary, rising to twice the salary if shareholders give their approval.

The new law is in response to public anger at the size of bonuses, especially at banks that had to be rescued by taxpayer money at a time of general austerity in Europe.

The European Banking Authority (EBA) said on Wednesday that two consultations on the implementation of the law will be published this year, determining the impact it will have on the sector.

The first will be on binding rules that define who is a "risk taker" at a bank and therefore subject to the bonus cap. The second will set out guidelines for national regulators on how to treat non-cash payments included in a banker's remuneration package.

Regulators in EU states currently use their own definitions of "risk takers", but the aim is to come up with a common interpretation, the EBA said.

After failing to stop the cap, bankers are now hoping to water it down in practice.

"The current definition of risk taker in Britain is rather wide and not only captures traders and senior staff, but also second-tier staff such as non-traders," one banking industry official said on condition of anonymity.

Even more banking staff in France and Germany are deemed to be "risk takers" and banking bodies in several EU states want the EBA to limit the definition to senior bankers and executives, the official added.

The EBA will also finalise guidance on the treatment of non-cash bonuses, such as bonds and share options.

Such non-cash instruments paid five years after being awarded to employees will qualify for a discount, allowing larger overall bonuses to be awarded.

The EBA will decide how this discount will be calculated, with banks seeking as high a rate as possible.

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