Polish Lawmakers to Question Bank CEOs on Fees as New Tax Nears

  • Legislation bans banks from transfering costs to clients
  • Biggest bank PKO says costlier IT triggered its fee increase

Polish lawmakers are preparing to question the nation’s most powerful commercial bankers after some of them raised fees on clients before the introduction of a new tax.

Lenders, including the country’s largest, state-controlled PKO Bank Polski SA, as well as the Polish units of Raiffeisen Bank International AG and Deutsche Bank AG, have increased fees for various services since last month. Polish banks, which face a new tax amounting to 0.44 percent of their assets as of February, are barred from transferring the costs of their levy on to customers, according to the legislation.

“When such situations occur, we are obliged to check them, hence our invitations,” Andrzej Jaworski, who heads parliament’s public finance committee, said on Tuesday, without giving a precise date for the hearing. “If banks boosted fees because of the tax, we will notify the antitrust and financial market watchdogs.”

Polish lenders suffered from a drop in earnings in 2015 because of record-low interest rates and higher payments into a deposit guarantee fund. This year, they are additionally pressured by the new tax, expected to bring in to the budget about a third of the industry’s annual profit, as well as planned legislation to force banks to potentially pay out billions of zloty to cover risks stemming from their foreign-currency mortgages. Such concerns have driven Warsaw-listed banks to a three-year low on Jan. 20.

The WIGBank index of 15 lenders has dropped 13 percent this year, pushing valuations below estimated book value for the first time since 2009. On Jan. 4, Finance Minister Pawel Szalamacha said the era of “high returns on capital in the banking industry is gone” and called on PKO, along with smaller state-owned peers Bank Pocztowy SA and BOS Bank SA, to keep lenders’ costs from rising following the tax increase.

PKO raised fees because of increasing IT costs and changes in “external regulations,” dismissing any link between the new tax and its pricing policy, Pawel Borys, head of the lender’s strategy department, said on Monday. Raiffeisen’s spokesman Marcin Jedlinski said his bank informed clients of the looming fee increase in December. Deutsche Bank increased margins on its home loans last month, a move that was not connected to the new levy, spokeswoman Sabina Salamon said on Tuesday.

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