EU court's top adviser says Italy reform of mutual banks is lawful

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A legal adviser to the European Union’s top court said on Tuesday that the overhaul of mutual banks adopted in Italy in 2015 is in line with EU rules, dismissing an appeal filed by consumer organizations.

The opinion is not binding on the European Court of Justice but judges do normally follow the legal advice given by the court’s advocate general.

The reform was adopted in 2015 by the government of former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and obliges large Italian mutual lenders to become joint-stock companies, in an effort to improve governance and boost their appeal for potential investors.

Most of the 10 largest ‘popolari’ banks targeted by the reform have already complied with the terms of the overhaul.

Reporting by Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio; editing by Philip Blenkinsop