Persistently high non-performing exposures (NPLs) in several European countries pose significant challenges to financial stability and are likely weighing on credit growth and economic activity. This paper, which summarizes a detailed IMF analysis (IMF SDN/15/19), examines the structural obstacles that discourage European banks from addressing their problem loans. It argues that a comprehensive approach comprising three pillars is needed to accelerate balance sheet clean-up: (1) intensified banking oversight, to incentivize write-off or restructuring of impaired loans, including fostering more conservative provisioning and time-bound restructuring targets on banks’ NPL portfolios; (2) enhanced insolvency and debt enforcement regimes, and more developed out-of-court restructuring frameworks; and (3) the development of distressed debt markets by improving market infrastructure and, in some cases, using asset management companies (AMCs) to jump-start the market. A variety of facilitating measures could support these three main pillars, including better public registers, the removal of tax disincentives, and debt counseling services.
Ms. Yan Liu is Assistant General Counsel in the Legal Department of the International Monetary Fund. In this capacity, she supervises the work of the Legal Department on the development and implementation of polices on sovereign debt restructurings. She leads a team of lawyers providing advice on private sector debt resolution with a focus on corporate, household and SME insolvency reform, enforcement of creditor rights and nonperforming loan resolution. Ms. Liu also supervises the Financial Integrity Group of the Legal Department that deals with anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism, tax evasion and anticorruption issues at both the policy and the individual member country level in the context of the IMF’s surveillance, program and capacity building activities. Finally, she oversees the Legal Department’s work on the development and implementation of capacity development (technical assistance and training) strategies and policies. Prior to joining the IMF Legal Department in 1999, Ms. Liu was in private practice at Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson and Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy in the United States. A native of China, Ms. Liu received her legal education in China and the United States.