Two Weeks Ago The New York Times Said It Obtained Secret ECB Documents — So Why Haven’t We Heard More?

Draghi shrug
ECB president Mario Draghi. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

Two weeks ago, the New York Times revealed a stunning leak from the European Central Bank.

They posted a story about negotiations around Cyprus’ financial crisis in late 2012 and early 2013 buried in the ECB minutes:

The New York Times has reviewed governing council minutes dating from May 2012 to January 2013 — just two months before the controversial Cyprus bailout.

The Cyprus story was great on its own, but perhaps more significant is the fact that the Times was able to get its hands on the ECB minutes. Unlike the Fed, Bank of England, and Bank of Japan, the ECB will not release a record of its meeting discussions for 30 years.

And since the ECB was established fewer than 30 years ago, in 1998, none of the meeting minutes have been released to the public yet. This was the first time in history that any such documents had been obtained by financial media.

Which leads us to next question: Where are the rest of the minutes and what was discussed in them? The eurozone was not quiet for that 9-month period, so there could be dozens of stories to come out of the minutes. On Wednesday, Twitter’s Nelder Mead pointed out the lack of articles on the subject.

Using the ECB’s own crisis timeline, it is clear that the documents from this timeframe could cover several other imporant areas, including:

  • July 5, 2012: The ECB cut rates to 0.75%, a historic low at that point. At the time, Draghi says the decision was unanimous, but it’s hard not to imagine there wasn’t any interesting discussion
  • July 20, 2012: The Eurogroup starting helping to recapitalize the Spanish banking sector. This wasn’t an ECB decision, but given Bundesbank boss Jens Weidmann’s comments about Cyprus, was anything said?
  • July-August 2012: “Whatever it takes”. Draghi’s seminal speech was followed days later by details on ‘outright monetary transactions’, in which the ECB could buy sovereign bonds from struggling countries. What did the governing council think?
  • September 12, 2012: The European Commission proposed powers for the ECB in a eurozone banking union, which they have since started to take up. What did policymakers think?

It’s quite possible that the NYT is working on more pieces. Or maybe the ECB minutes just aren’t that juicy. But since the majority of us have never seen any, we can’t really say for sure.