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DIRECTORATE GENERAL SECRETARIAT
Campaigner on the Supervision of Financial Actors
Reclaim Finance email@example.com
21 May 2021
Request for public access to ECB documents
Dear Mr Schreiber,
On 3 March 2021 the European Central Bank (ECB) received your application for access to documents which
contain information on “the list of banks that are borrowing under TLTROs, how much they are borrowing and
at what rate”
(hereinafter point 1); and “the estimated profit from negative rate TLTROs for each bank that benefit
from this exceptional provision”
(hereinafter point 2).
You further explained that, “today, individual banks disclose data on how much they have borrowed from the
TLTROs and at what rate on a voluntary basis. However, the ECB itself do not publish this data and the ESMA
recently underlined the insufficient transparency of TLTRO operations. This is highly problematic in the context
of the Covid crisis as: the ECB heavily rely on TLTROs to provide an accommodative monetary policy (1.59
trillion in 2020 only); the ECB provides banks with negative TLTRO rates (- 1%) if they reach a pre-defined level
of lending, thus giving several billion euros to the European banking sector. It is worth noting that the Bank of
England disclose data regarding its Term funding scheme on its website.”
As indicated in our emails on 3 March and 6 April, your application had entered a queuing system and started
being processed on 6 April and is hereby addressed. On 30 April, in line with Article 7(3) of Decision
on public access to ECB documents and owing to the increased workload, the ECB extended the
stipulated time limit for reply by 20 working days
1. Background information
In June 2014, the Governing Council, decided to introduce the first series2
of targeted longer-term refinancing
operations (TLTROs), with a view of supporting bank lending to the non-financial private sector, meaning
1 Decision ECB/2004/3 of 4 March 2004 on public access to European Central Bank documents (OJ L 80, 18.3.2004, p. 42)
2 A first series
of TLTROs was announced on 5 June 2014, a second series
(TLTRO II) on 10 March 2016 and a third series
(TLTRO III) on 7 March 2019.
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households (excluding loans for the purpose of house purchases) and non-financial corporations, in Member
States whose currency is the euro3
. By offering to the participating banks long-term funding at attractive
conditions TLTROs stimulate bank lending to the real economy. The amount that banks can borrow under
TLTROs is linked to their outstanding amount of eligible loans to non-financial corporations and households and
the interest rate to be applied is linked to the participating banks’ lending patterns. This means that if participating
banks meet the lending benchmarks, as defined in terms of loans to non-financial corporations and households,
they receive a more attractive interest rate on their TLTRO borrowings.
Following the recalibration announced by the Governing Council on 10 December 20204
, borrowing rates in
these operations can be as low as 50 basis points below the average interest rate on the deposit facility over
the period from 24 June 2020 to 23 June 2022, and as low as the average interest rate on the deposit facility
during the rest of the life of the respective TLTRO. For banks not meeting the lending benchmarks, TLTRO rates
are 50 basis points below the average interest rate on the main refinancing operations between June 2020 and
June 2022 and equal to the average interest rate on the main refinancing operations in other periods. Overall,
the most favourable interest rate can be (i) as low as -1% for a bank participating from TLTRO III.4 onwards,
meeting the lending thresholds and repaying its borrowing up to June 2022; and (ii) as high as -0.08% for a bank
borrowing only in the December 2021 operation, not meeting the additional lending benchmark and keeping the
funds until maturity (December 2024).5
The interest rates applicable to TLTROs reflect and are in line with the ECB’s key policy rates. The rate on the
ECB deposit facility, i.e. the rate at which banks excess reserves exceeding a minimum threshold are
remunerated, has been lowered to -0.50% as of September 2019 to provide further monetary policy
accommodation in presence of downward risks to price stability. The negative interest rates continue to be an
effective tool for providing monetary policy accommodation. The ECB has clear evidence that providing interest
rates below zero provides additional stimulus to the euro area economy, as negative interest rates are passed
through the bank lending rates, and overall financing conditions of firms and households.6
2. Identification of the requested documents
In relation to point 1 of your request, “the list of banks that are borrowing under TLTROs, how much they are
borrowing and at what rate”.
The ECB, after having carefully examined your request in line with Decision
has identified a confidential internal database containing (i) the list of banks that are borrowing
under TLTROs, including the respective total amounts; and (ii) preliminary estimates of the potential interest
rates at the bank level.
In relation to point 2 of your request, “the estimated profit from negative rate TLTROs for each bank that benefit
from this exceptional provision”,
please note that an estimate of the profit from negative interest rates at bank is
not available at the ECB, since such figures depend on a variety of factors, including but not limited to (i) the
3 For more information, see https://www.ecb.europa.eu/mopo/implement/omo/tltro/html/index.en.html.
4 For more information, see https://www.ecb.europa.eu/press/pr/date/2020/html/ecb.pr201210_1~e8e95af01c.en.html.
5 For details on pricing see https://www.ecb.europa.eu/mopo/implement/omo/tltro/html/index.en.html.
6 For more information see https://www.ecb.europa.eu/press/pressconf/2021/html/ecb.is210422~b0ad2d3414.en.html
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extent to which TLTROs replaced alternative funding sources, and the rates thereof, (ii) the extent to which
TLTROs enabled extra investments; (iii) the yields thereof net of provisions/impairment; and (iv) the
counterfactual evidence of what lending rates and amounts would have been if the bank had not participated.
Therefore, while the general rate range constitutes public information (as explained in section 1), no document,
containing the requested information on the estimated profit at the bank level, as specified in part 2 of your
3. Assessment of disclosure
In relation to point 1 of your request, following a thorough assessment in line with Decision ECB/2004/3 we
regret to inform you that the identified confidential database cannot be disclosed, since its disclosure would
undermine the interests protected under (i) the second indent of Article 4(1)(a) (“the protection of public interest
as regards the financial, monetary or economic policy of the Union or a Member State”)
; (ii) the first indent of
Article 4(2) (“commercial interests of a natural or legal person, including intellectual property”
); and (iii) Article
4(1)(c) (“the confidentiality of information that is protected as such under Union law”
) of Decision ECB/2004/3.
The following explanations clarify the ECB’s decision not to disclose the requested data.
Second indent of Article 4(1)(a) of Decision ECB/2004/3 – “the financial, monetary or economic policy
of the Union or a Member State”
Pursuant to the second indent of Article 4(1)(a) of Decision ECB/2004/3, the ECB shall refuse access to
documents, where disclosure would undermine the protection of the public interest as regards the monetary or
economic policy of the Union. As further detailed in the following paragraphs, the disclosure of the requested
data could harm the effectiveness of the TLTRO programme and jeopardize the achievement of the monetary
policy objectives pursued by the TLTRO operations, namely supporting bank lending to the real economy at
favourable conditions, including to small businesses which rely heavily on bank-based financing, thereby
undermining the ECB’s ability to implement monetary policy effectively.
The ECB publishes, in a proactive and regular manner, the relevant decisions of the Governing Council and
aggregated information concerning TLTROs (see also section 1) and evaluates regularly whether further
information on these operations can be published, without jeopardising such operations. In particular, the ECB,
in line with the approach for all open market operations, on the day of allotment, communicates the aggregate
TLTRO take-up at Eurosystem level and the number of bidders. It also publishes information on the outstanding
amounts borrowed and the regular early repayments.7
However, the disclosure of detailed, disaggregated data on the individual allotment to specific counterparties in
a centralised manner, would lead to a situation where disclosure of reliance of individual counterparties on
Eurosystem funding may act as a deterrent to participation or as a catalyst for aggravating a bank’s liquidity
position. This is because recourse to Eurosystem funding may be interpreted as an indicator of an individual
7 For more information, see https://www.ecb.europa.eu/mopo/implement/omo/tltro/html/index.en.html.
bank’s ability to access market-based funding and, more generally, of its liquidity situation. Absent any guarantee
on confidentiality of individual data, participants could adjust their behaviour in terms of participation to
operations and early repayments. Since the effectiveness of TLTROs also depends on broad-based, unfettered
participation, it is of the utmost importance that counterparties’ access to monetary policy operations is not
hindered by potential concerns regarding the confidentiality of their operations. Ultimately, disclosure of TLTRO
take-up might dissuade some banks from participating and this, in turn, could jeopardise the effectiveness of
the operations (partly) depending on their broad and unfettered use.
In addition, the ECB notes that the interest rates applied to each participant are only determined at the time of
repayment and depend on their lending performance relative to the benchmark. Therefore, the confidential
information currently contained in the identified confidential database, only constitutes a preliminary estimate
computed internally under very strong assumptions and it does not reflect the final TLTRO conditions of
First indent of Article 4(2) of Decision ECB/2004/3 – (“commercial interests of a natural or legal person,
including intellectual property”)
Pursuant to first indent of Article 4(2) of Decision ECB/2004/3, the ECB must refuse access to documents where
disclosure would undermine the protection of the commercial interests of a natural or legal person, unless there
is an overriding public interest in disclosure.
The identified confidential internal database contains commercially sensitive information and data on the liquidity
provided to participating banks. Disclosure of such data could affect the commercial interests of the participants
and may also impact other market participants in the banking and financial sector of the euro area. In this
respect, the ECB notes that credit institutions have a legitimate commercial interest in preventing third parties
from obtaining information on their liquidity and amounts obtained in and through Eurosystem monetary policy
operations, as certain information could trigger unwarranted speculation about the participant’s financial and
liquidity situation, their future participation in Eurosystem monetary policy operations within the TLTRO
programme, and their prospective funding needs.
Depending on its content, the disclosure of such data could reveal financial weakness or strength, thereby
respectively disadvantaging or benefitting the banks in comparison to other market participants for which similar
information has not been made publicly available. Furthermore, interest rates in our targeted operations depend
on the lending performance of the banks. Disclosing them may reveal information about their commercial
activities and strategies. For the above reasons, the ECB considers that disclosing the requested data could
undermine the protection of the commercial interests of the banks participating in the programme and other
market participants in the banking and financial sector of the euro area.
The ECB is aware of the fact that many participants have proactively and voluntary communicated their
borrowing under TLTROs to the market. On the one hand, for the reasons outlined in this reply, the voluntary
nature of these disclosures does not translate into a general obligation to disclose as mandatory disclosure
could be at odds with the achievement of the monetary policy objective of the operations. On the other hand,
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the legitimate commercial interest of participants to prevent third parties from obtaining information on their
liquidity is duly protected, in as much as the disclosure is voluntary.
In this respect, from the ECB’s perspective, it is noted that it would be inappropriate to introduce different
communication standards for different operations, either through the ECB’s own communication channels or via
a mandatory disclosure requirement. The result would be a situation where individual take-up is communicated
for some operations but not for others. There is no objective justification for applying different standards to
operations that ultimately all have the same objective, namely, to maintain price stability in the euro area.
The above explanation also addresses your remark that “today, individual banks disclose data on how much
they have borrowed from the TLTROs and at what rate on a voluntary basis. However, the ECB itself do not
publish this data”.
Finally, as mentioned above the ECB must refuse access to documents where disclosure would undermine the
protection of the commercial interests of a natural or legal person, unless there is an overriding public interest
in disclosure. In order for an overriding public interest in disclosure to exist, this interest, first, has to be public
(as opposed to the private interest of the applicant) and, second, overriding, i.e., in this case it must outweigh
the individual interest protected. For this purpose, specific and detailed reasons based on the nature of the
documents must also be provided as justification for the invoked public interest. The ECB’s assessment could
not identify an overriding public interest in the disclosure of the identified documents, namely of disaggregated
data regarding individual TLTRO participations and preliminary estimates of the potential interest rates at the
bank level under TLTRO. Consequently, the prevailing interest in this case lies in protecting the commercial
interests of the undertakings concerned, as explained above and access to the requested documents must be
Article 4(1)(c) of Decision ECB/2004/3 – (“the confidentiality of information that is protected as such
under Union law”)
Pursuant to Article 4(1)(c) of Decision ECB/2004/3, the ECB must refuse access to documents where disclosure
would undermine the protection of the confidentiality of information that is protected as such under-EU law.
In addition to the arguments justifying non-disclosure as provided under sections (i) and (ii), it is worth noting
that the information contained in the internal database constitutes “operational data relating to counterparties
participating in Eurosystem monetary policy operations”.
Article 188 of Guideline ECB/2014/608
Eurosystem monetary policy framework, such data are covered by professional secrecy obligations as referred
to by Article 37 of the Statute of the ESCB.9
The inclusion of operational data relating to Eurosystem
counterparties under the strict requirements of professional secrecy reflects the sensitivity of such data and the
8 Guideline (EU) 2015/510 of the European Central Bank of 19 December 2014 on the implementation of the Eurosystem monetary
policy framework (ECB/2014/60) (OJ L 91, 2.4.2015, p. 3–135).
9 Protocol (no 4) on the Statute of the European System of Central Banks and of the European Central Bank (OJ C 202, 7.6.2016,
potential impact of disclosure on monetary policy as described in section (i). The maintenance of such
confidentiality is of utmost importance to remove any hindrance to participation in monetary policy operations.
Taking into account the points made above, the ECB has concluded that the requested data cannot be disclosed.
4. Final remarks
For the sake of good order, we would like to inform you that, as regards the identified document Article 7(2) of
Decision ECB/2004/3 provides that “in the event of total or partial refusal, the applicant may, within 20 working
days of receiving the ECB’s reply, make a confirmatory application asking the ECB’s Executive Board to
reconsider its position
Petra Senkovic Margarita Louiza Karydi
Director General Secretariat Head of the Compliance and Governance Division