CONSULTANTS working with European regulators on a wide-reaching bank audit could see a fee windfall of almost €500m (£400m).
The European Central Bank and eight national regulators are in the final stages of a review of the 128 biggest lenders in the region, which will see external advisers net €487.7m in fees, research by the Financial Times found.
The banks themselves could end up footing a large proportion of these fees, the newspaper said.
Regulators are taking steps to restore trust in the banking sector following a turbulent five years that saw global recession and the eurozone crisis disrupt economies throughout Europe. The results are due to be announced in October; institutions will then have two weeks to plug any holes in their balance sheets.
Several regulators plan to pass the cost of hiring consultants for the audit work on to the banks involved. However, Banca d'Italia and Banque de France are planning to absorb the costs themselves.
The amount spent on external advice varies greatly, according to FT research, with Germany's BaFin spending around €240m during the assessment process. By comparison, Spain has spent just €15.9m.
The ECB declined to comment on the newspaper's estimates, but said the costs were "necessary investment to restore confidence, increase transparency and achieve repair where necessary".
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