Pope caps reform of Vatican bank with new statutes

The Vatican’s elite Swiss Guard march past the Institute for Works of Religion, the Vatican’s once scandal-ridden bank. (Reuters)
Updated 11 August 2019
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Pope caps reform of Vatican bank with new statutes

  • New rules ban employees from consultancies or roles with outside institutions

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis has approved new statutes for the Vatican Bank, making an external audit obligatory and introducing other changes to bolster reforms that have turned around the once scandal-ridden institution.

The statutes, approved in a papal document released by the Vatican on Saturday, cap more than six years of changes at the bank since Francis was elected in 2013, since when he has made reform of the bank one of his priorities.

The bank had been caught in previous years in cases of corruption, tax evasion, embezzlement, money laundering and real estate fraud, some involving top officials and prelates, damaging the Vatican’s ethical credentials.

Andrea Tornielli, the Vatican’s editorial director, called the new rules “an important step in the process of adhering to the best international standards.”

Soon after his election, Francis considered closing the bank, formally known as the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), but decided to continue reforms launched by his predecessor Pope Benedict.

The new statutes make an external audit mandatory. While this has taken place in the past few years, the previous statutes, issued in 1990 by Pope John Paul, called for internal audits.

The new rules ban bank employees, nearly all of whom are non-clerics, from holding consultancies or other roles with outside institutions.

The number of members of the lay board of supervisors, which is made up of internationally known outside financial experts, is increased from five to seven.

This will effectively strengthen the role of the lay board and weaken that of a supervisory commission of cardinals, whose number remains five.

For decades before reforms were implemented, the IOR was embroiled in numerous financial scandals as people with no right to have accounts opened them and used them for illicit purposes with the complicity of corrupt insiders. In the past six years, hundreds of accounts have been closed at the IOR, whose stated purpose is to manage funds for the Church, Vatican employees, religious institutes, or Catholic charities.

Last year, the Vatican’s controller, the Financial Information Authority (AIF), carried out an on-site inspection of the IOR to ensure it was complying with anti-money laundering legislation and the outcome was “substantially positive,” the AIF said in its report for that year.

In 2017, Italy put the Vatican on its “white list” of states with cooperative financial institutions, ending years of mistrust. The same year, Moneyval, a monitoring body of the Council of Europe, gave Vatican reforms a mostly positive evaluation, particularly those carried out at the bank.


Saudi market regulator in talks with Aramco on IPO rules

Updated 18 September 2019

Saudi market regulator in talks with Aramco on IPO rules

  • Kingdom’s stock market regulator typically requires firms offer at least 20% to 30% of their shares when floating
  • Aramco’s primary listing will be on the Saudi stock exchange (Tadawul) in Riyadh

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Capital Market Authority (CMA) is in talks with Saudi Aramco and its advisers about the regulatory requirements for listing on the domestic stock exchange, its chairman Mohammed bin Abdullah Elkuwaiz told Reuters.
“We continue to have discussions with the company and its advisers on both their readiness, as well as our regulatory requirements for the market,” Kuwaiz said on Wednesday.
Asked whether there will be any waivers or exemptions for the company’s listing, Kuwaiz told Reuters in an interview that the CMA is “still having those discussions.”
The Kingdom’s stock market regulator typically requires firms offer at least 20% to 30% of their shares when floating.
Aramco, whose chairman Yassir Al-Rumayyan said this week that the IPO would be ready within the next year and preparations were continuing despite Saturday’s attacks on its facilities, is yet to file its prospectus with the Saudi regulator.
“We receive waivers or exemption requests where needed and we review them on a case by case basis,” Kuwaiz said, in reference to those discussions.
Aramco’s primary listing will be on the Saudi stock exchange (Tadawul) in Riyadh, but the government is still considering a secondary listing overseas, Saudi finance minister, Mohammed Al-Jadaan told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday.