Italy Court Won't Halt Coop Bank Law Ahead of Case Review

  • Court to review merit of case on 2 out of 3 challenges Feb. 10
  • Admin. court decided to reject third challenge, Ansa says

An Italian administrative court on Wednesday said it won’t immediately halt the conversion of the nation’s cooperative lenders into joint-stock firms as consumer groups seek to suspend the measure.

The court will review the merits of the case on two out of three challenges to the legitimacy of Bank of Italy’s rules to implement the Popolari reform at a new hearing set for Feb. 10, Francesco Saverio Marini, a lawyer representing lenders, said by phone.

Adusbef, FederConsumatori and some small cooperative banks’ shareholders have challenged the legitimacy of some of the rules that implement the law to turn so-called popolari banks into joint-stock companies within 18 months. They claim the transformation of lenders violates the cooperative objectives that are rooted in the companies’ structures.

The administrative court also decided to reject a third request to suspend a Bank of Italy measure that prohibits the creation of a holding company to control banks turned into joint stock firms, according to news agency Ansa.

The law approved in March will bring an end to restrictions on ownership and voting rights which have allowed cooperative bank shareholders, who consist mainly of employees and local business clients, to block unwanted changes. The reform was introduced because the Italian banking system needs to undergo a “healthy restructuring in terms of having larger banks and eventually fewer banks,” Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan said last month.

Shares of Italy’s biggest popolari climbed after the news. Banco Popolare SC rose 1.6 percent to 13.66 euros in Milan. Unione di Banche Italiane SCpA was little changed at 6.64 euros.

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