The Governor of the Bank of Italy, Antonio Fazio, has resigned, finally bowing to months of calls for him to quit because of his handling of attempted foreign takeovers of Italian banks. He stepped down just one day before the Italian government’s cabinet was due to hold an emergency session on his future. And on the eve of a meeting of the central bank’s superior council, the only body that could dismiss him from his job for life.
In a statement Fazio said he alone had made the decision, with a untroubled conscience, “to restore calm, in the greater interest of the country and the Bank of Italy.” The resignation follows the recent arrest of his close friend Gianpiero Fiorani, the former chief executive of Banca Popolare Italiana.
Fiorani, who has been accused of criminal conspiracy to embezzle has reportedly been questioned about alleged illegal payments to politicians. Prosecutors also revealed that he had given Fazio and members of his family lavish gifts worth thousands of euros. Fazio, who had been in charge of the central bank since 1993, had never permitted a foreign takeover of an Italian credit institution.
The accusations that he had unfairly favoured an Italian bank run by his long-time friend came after he approved a bid by Pop Italiana to buy a much larger financial institution, Banca Antonveneta. At the same time a rival takeover attempt by the Dutch lender ABN Amro was delayed. Fazio’s position finally became untenable after it was learned he was being investigated by Milan prosecutors for suspected insider trading.
So the most powerful man in Italian banking has gone, it remains to be seen if his
resignation can restore investor confidence in Europe’s fourth largest economy.