Privacy in Germany, it’s for banks too

Until now, Berlin has resisted the US-style publication of information about banks’ capital cushions because it feared the results could be manipulated, could send the wrong signals, and break German laws about commercial secrets.

The government’s U-turn is likely to rouse the anger of German banks, which have been in lock-step with Berlin so far in resisting the publication – and under German law they would have to approve any public use of their own data.

Deutsche Bank chief executive Josef Ackermann last week warned that publishing the results of stress tests would be “very, very dangerous” if there were no “backstop facilities” in place to allow stressed banks to draw on new capital.

The full story, which includes information on Spain, is here.  The last paragraph may sound slightly ridiculous to an American reader — why make such an admission of vulnerability?  Yet in Germany privacy norms and laws are quite strong and virtually everyone will grant you the right to assert privacy.  If you are waiting at an ATM, you had better stand very far back, behind the person at the machine, otherwise you will hear about it.  Everyone at the university keeps their office doors closed, although not for the American reason of avoiding students.  The goal is to have a closed door and a private space between you and the rest of the world.  German blog readers who see you in public will talk less to you than would American blog readers.  "Direct mail" is considered not only a nuisance, but also a privacy violation.  People work next to each other for twenty years, and it's still just "Frau Mueller," etc.


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