Who controls ECB (European Central Bank)?

This is a strange story. We were having a chat after the project meeting finished and somehow the subject of European Central Bank (ECB) came up. I don’t remember why or how but the question was raised: who controls the ECB? Well, I knew that ECB was a company but I did not know details. So I had to have a look. The results are … well, this could have been expected.

Okay, so ECB is a bank, a commercial entity with all European Central Banks as shareholders. No surprises there. So whoever controls the Central Banks of the EU countries – controls the ECB. Now the next question is, of course, who controls the Central Banks?

I did not check them all but I suspect they are all organized the same way: the government (I could not find out how) is the shareholder and owner of the Central Bank. It seems that even where the Central Banks were private, they were nationalized some time ago. So they are all publicly owned. But there is a catch.

You see, the Central Banks have a note on their pages and in the documents that effectively says: “we are not controlled by the government”. I cannot imagine why, but all right, so the Central Banks are not controlled by the government, that’s just the way they are set up. So the owners actually do not control the banks. Who controls them then?

In this case, since there is no other obvious control mechanism, the Board of Directors and, in the first place, the Governor, will be controlling the Central Bank. Again, it seems that all banks in Europe are set up identically. So their management actually controls the Central Banks and therefore controls the ECB. A financial empire, no less. Very well. Who are the management and can we see any clear affiliations there?

And that’s where it got messy. Some countries’ Central Banks do not disclose any information about the governors – those are double suspicious. But all of the others show affiliation with U.S. one way or another. Here is the list of governors and those of their past affiliations that could be easily found.

  • ECB: Mario Draghi, President – Goldman Sachs, World Bank
  • Bank of England: Mark Carney, Governor – Goldman Sachs
  • Bank of France: Christian Noyer, Governor  – IMF, World Bank
  • Deutsche Bundesbank: Jens Weidmann, President – IMF
  • Bank of Greece: Yannis Stournaras, Governor – IMF
  • De Nederlandsche Bank: Klaas
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