A draft law that a group of European Union lawmakers voted for on Monday would shield small depositors from losing their savings in future bank rescues, but customers with more than 100,000 euros in savings when a bank failed could suffer losses.
A group of lawmakers in the European Parliament's economics committee overwhelmingly voted that, from 2016, large depositors in the EU might suffer losses if a bank gets into serious trouble. The plan was similar to a deal in Cyprus, where wealthy depositors at two banks took hits to save the country from bankruptcy.
Under the EU proposal, a bank would dip into large deposits of over 100,000 euros once it had exhausted other avenues such as shareholders and bondholders. But deposits under 100,000 euros would be spared.
"The case in Cyprus showed how important it is to have clear procedures for making shareholders, bondholders and ultimately depositors foot the bill," a press release from the committee said after the vote.
Some countries have also mooted the idea of using banks' deposit guarantee schemes. But lawmakers voted against this because it could hurt smaller savers.
The European Parliament has joint say with the 27 countries in the EU on the law that would give regulators powers to impose losses on creditors and take other steps during a bank rescue.
EU finance ministers agreed last week that large, uninsured depositors should be subject to losses but some countries may still seek some flexibility on how they wind down their banks.
"The struggle will be how binding the bail-in and the hierarchy of liabilities is," Sven Giegold, a German Green lawmaker said after the vote.
The legislation envisions creation of national resolution funds based on bank contributions. Some lawmakers are calling for a Europe-wide resolution fund and the European Commission is due to propose such a fund in the coming months but that faces resistance from Germany.
Earlier on Monday, Bank of England Deputy Governor Paul Tucker said the EU law on bank recovery and resolution would be a milestone towards a global system and help convince markets that governments were no longer willing to rescue "too big to fail" lenders.