Last Friday, Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras made a televised statement calling for a referendum on whether to accept the latest bailout deal offered by creditors. There were over 500 million euros withdrawn from ATMs on Saturday, with around 35% of ATMs running out of cash and being restocked at some point during the day.
On Sunday, June 28, the Greek parliament approved the referendum as well as a legislative act titled "Short-term bank holiday"1, ordering Greek banks to remain closed and implement severe transaction limits for 6 business days. The Hellenic Capital Market Commission decided2 to close down the stock and bond markets for the duration of the bank holiday.
A summary of implemented capital controls:
- ATM withdrawals limited to 60 euros, per card, per day.
- Unlimited withdrawals for foreign-issued cards at Greek ATMs (besides traditional limits and cash availability)
- No withdrawals allowed for Greek-issued cards at foreign ATMs.
- No credit/debit transactions for Greek-issued cards if the merchant account is foreign.
- Unlimited credit/debit transactions for Greek-issued cards, if the merchant account is in Greece.
- Unlimited transfers between Greek bank accounts via online or phone banking facilities
- Transfers to bank accounts outside of Greece will be exceptionally approved by a newly-formed Committee.
Restocking of ATMs with cash has not been timely, with many ATMs running out of 20 euro bills, effectively lowering the withdrawal limit to 50 euros per day.
The legislative act exempted pensions from all measures, with initial plans to open some bank branches on Wednesday and full pensions being paid out. It is worth noting that many, if not most, villages in Greece don't feature any ATMs, and their residents naturally have never owned or used a credit/debit card. According to the most recent announcements, pensioners will only be able to withdraw a total of 120 euros this week.
Reuters reports that Western Union has stopped servicing transfers to and from Greece, however no official announcement can be found on Western Union's website at the time of writing.
Translation of the Short-term bank holiday act:
Taking into account:
1. Article 44 paragraph 1 of the Constitution.
2. The extraordinary circumstances of an urgent and unforeseen need to protect the Greek financial system and the Greek economy in general, from the lack of liquidity caused by the decision of the Eurogroup of 27 June 2015 to refuse the extension of the loan agreement in Greece.
3. The relevant proposal of the Ministerial Council, we decide:
1. The period from June 28 to July 6 is declared a bank holiday. The bank holiday applies to all credit institutions operating in Greece in any form, including the branches of foreign credit institutions falling under the scope of Law 4261/2014 (A 107), the Treasury of Deposits and Loans, payment institutions of Law 3862/2010 (A 113) and electronic money institutions of Law 4021/2011 (A 218), branches and representatives of payment institutions and electronic money institutions established in other Member States of the European Union and operating legally in Greece (hereinafter the "institutions").
By decision of the Minister of Finance the aforementioned period may be shortened or extended. During the bank holiday the institutions will remain closed to the public and will only allow access to staff necessary for the implementation of this act and preparation for the resumption of trade with the public after the end of the bank holiday.
The payment of pensions is exempted from the banking restrictions of this act. The management of credit institutions shall communicate the arrangements for payment of pensions and the specific regional branches, which will operate for this purpose.
2. During the bank holiday, it will be possible to perform:
a) cash withdrawals from automated teller machines, subject to a daily limit per card, set at 60 euros, which can be amended by the Minister of Finance. Automated teller machines will be operational within 12 hours on the first day of this act going into effect.
b) transactions without restrictions, other than those already into effect before the publication of this act, with credit or debit cards for payments to credit accounts maintained in Greece.
c) payments using prepaid cards, only up to the amount shown as account balance before the start of the bank holiday.
New prepaid cards cannot be issued.
d) transactions (via electronic/web or phone banking) for payments to credit accounts maintained in Greece.
e) cash withdrawals from automated teller machines using cards issued outside of Greece. Limits may be placed on these cards by decision of the Minister of Finance .
No other banking actions may be performed during the bank holiday.
By decision of the Finance Minister other categories of transactions may be exempted, with the decision also determining the process to be followed in those cases.
3. Paragraph 2 will not apply in the following cases:
a. transactions with the Bank of Greece.
b. cross-border payment orders relating exclusively to the crediting of an account maintained at a credit institution operating in Greece.
c. clearing transactions, which have been submitted to familiar central payment and arrangement systems (TARGET2-GR, EURO1, DIAS), or for example, the Athens Central Depository and System for Monitoring Transactions in Titles of Accounting Form (Immaterial Titles), before this act goes into effect.
d. specific transactions that are deemed necessary by the Committee described in the following paragraph.
e. Transactions of the Hellenic Republic.
4. The Banking Transaction Approval Committe will be formed at the General Accounting Office, its jurisdiction being the approval of transactions as stated in paragraph 3, item d, under the requirement that such transactions are deemed necessary to safeguard a public or social interest, including transactions for payment of medical expenses or importation of pharmaceutical materials. The Committee has five members and is comprised of the following persons:
a) the Director General of Budgetary Policy of the Genral Accounting Office at the Ministry of Finance, as chairman, with the Director of Budget as deputy.
b) the Director General of Fiscal Policy at the Ministry of Finance, with the Director of Credit and Financial Affairs as deputy.
c) the Director of the Directorate of Supervised Companies at the Bank of Greece, with the manager of the Directorate of Financial Operations at the Bank of Greece as deputy.
d) a representative of the Greek Banks Association and a representative of the HCMC designated by decision of each entity's President. The chairman of this Committee further designates an employee of the General Accounting Office, who must hold a university degree, as a secretary of the Committee.
5. There will be no default interest due during the bank holiday, in regard to claims that become due during the bank holiday.
At the same time deadlines for expiry, use and payment of bearer securities are suspended, as well as judicial deadlines.
6. The Bank of Greece will issue fines for any violations of this act, up to one tenth of the amount in the corresponding transactions. Additionally, the credit institution will be obligated to terminate the employment of the person responsible for the violation.
7. Any issues arising from the implementation of this act, will be settled by decision of the Minister of Finance. ↩
The Hellenic Capital Market Commission announcement:
The Hellenic Capital Market Commission (HCMC), during its 716th / 29.6.2015 Board of Directors meeting, and further to the relevant Opinion issued by ESMA on the same day, has decided, in view of the issuance of a legislative act providing for a bank holiday in Greece from the 28th of June 2015 until the 6th of July and the consecutive decision to close down, for the same period, the stock and bond markets, to impose a temporary prohibition of transactions in any financial instrument which would create a short position of the shares admitted to trading on the Athens Exchange and the Multilateral Trading Facility of “EN.A” (Alternative Market of the Athens Exchange) of which the relative Competent Authority is HCMC.
The temporary prohibition is imposed in accordance with Article 20 of the Regulation (EU) No 236/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 March 2012 on short selling and certain aspects of credit default swaps (OJ L 86/1, 2012). The measure shall apply for a period of seven days and shall be in force as of 00:00:01 hours (CET) on 30th June 2015 until 24:00:00 (CET) on 6th July 2015. ↩