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Poland's firing of regulator raises uncertainty for banks
February 16, 2017 / 3:15 PM / 10 months ago

Poland's firing of regulator raises uncertainty for banks

WARSAW, Feb 16 (Reuters) - Poland’s prime minister on Thursday dismissed Wojciech Kwasniak as deputy head of the country’s banking watchdog, a man regarded as the architect of a regulatory regime that helped local lenders avoid the crisis that has rocked banks elsewhere.

The government and KNF regulator did not give a reason for the dismissal, while Kwasniak was not immediately available for comment. The ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party has replaced numerous officials at state agencies and heads of state-run companies since its election victory in October 2015.

Kwasniak, 54, has worked in banking supervision since the early 1990s and his tough stance towards banks attracted both praise and criticism.

In 2014, he was severely beaten after receiving threats. According to prosecutors, he fell victim to criminals responsible for siphoning out money from credit union SKOK in Wolomin, a city near Warsaw, once known for its mafia.

“Prime Minister Beata Szydlo at the request of the chairman of the KNF Marek Chrzanowski dismissed as of Feb. 15 deputy chairmen Leslaw Gajek and Wojciech Kwasniak,” the KNF said in a statement.

A government spokesman said the changes posed no risk to the safety of the banking sector as the two men had been replaced by experienced regulators - Filip Switala and Marcin Pachucki.

A senior banking source who declined to be named said Kwasniak’s decisions were good for banking sector safety, but not always good for the economy, as they were often seen as holding back banks from lending.

“Tightening of requirements did not help the economy, but from the point of view of the banking sector it improved safety. You know - no decision, no mistakes,” the source said.

“The key thing is that there will be bigger unpredictability within the banking sector now,” another industry source added.

Poland’s banking sector index has risen almost 18 percent so far this year. (Reporting by Marcin Goclowski; Editing by Mark Potter)

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