Tremonti tackles Italian history
|Tremonti: the courts have driven
him back to negotiating with the
The history of legislation on banking foundations in Italy is not a happy one. Successive governments have tried to stamp their mark, with the aim of eroding the foundations' power. This government is no different. Finance minister Giulio Tremonti has tried to wrest a bit more influence from them and next month, or perhaps the one after, could be the moment of truth. That's when the constitutional court will present its decision on whether the foundations must sell the shares they hold in banks. It isn't difficult to see why what these bodies do interests the government. Between them, the 89 foundations hold almost e40 billion in assets, including big stakes in Italy's banks. This ownership dates back to 1990, when the government decided to split savings banks into two in recognition of their different and sometimes conflicting functions. One body - the bank - became a joint-stock company responsible for financial operations. The other - the banking foundation - retained charitable status and a social role, maintaining cultural attractions and historical monuments for example.