Investment Guidelines of German Municipalities in Practice

US rating agencies remain at an advantage over their European competitors. As the practical example of regulation in Hesse shows, the investment guidelines for municipalities cement the dominant position of the US rating agencies for every rated investment.

Even the German rating agencies are out of the question for most communities. Since the ratings of the leading US agencies are prescribed in the communities, the services of the German agencies are – from this point of view – dispensable. Since the municipalities have to set their own investment guidelines and do not think about the local agencies, the smaller competitors of the US market leaders are left out.

Section 108, paragraph 2 of the Hessian Municipal Code (HGO) obliges the municipality to ensure sufficient security in the context of the careful and economic management of its assets when investing money, whereby it should bring in an appropriate return.

In doing so, the municipality has to minimize financial risks; speculative financial transactions are prohibited. They are legally obliged to do so in accordance with section 92 (2) sentences 2 and 3 HGO. The financial budget of the municipality is to be managed thriftily and economically. The community has to minimize financial risks. Speculative financial transactions are prohibited.

Deposits are compatible with Section 92 (2) HGO and Section 108 (2) HGO if the municipalities ensure that the security takes precedence over the possible return. The assets are to be managed carefully and economically and properly accounted for. Sufficient security is to be ensured for financial investments; they should bring a reasonable yield.

This principle must also be observed in times of low and negative interest rates. As of October 1, 2017, municipal deposits will no longer be protected by the voluntary deposit protection fund at private banks. Deposits existing as of October 1, 2017 are grandfathered.

The deposit protection instruments of the Savings Banks Finance Group and the cooperative banks also do not offer any protection for public sector deposits. Nevertheless, there is a lower risk here due to the institutional security. With the abolition of grandfathering, deposits at private banks have become less secure. However, they are not to be described as speculative.

The Hessian municipalities have to issue investment guidelines for investments before they are deposited. These regulate the security requirements, the administration of financial investments by the municipality and the regular reporting obligation.

The guidelines are to be decided by the local authority and are to be made known to the supervisory authority. The investment guideline of a Hessian municipality is only valid for investments that are made after the entry into force. Existing financial investments made on the basis of the investment guidelines of the Hessian Ministry of the Interior and Sports on municipal investment transactions and derivative financial transactions (StAnz. 2009, p. 701), which have expired, remain unaffected by these provisions.

As the State’s highest-ranking administrative authority, the Ministry is not only involved in government activities, but is also in charge of the legal and technical supervision of the States institutions that come under this department. The tasks of the Ministry of the Interior comprise for example the departments of security, municipal affairs and general affairs of the Interior and Sports.

Due to these requirements, the municipal statutes for investing their liquid funds are based on model guidelines, which usually contain the following provisions:

If the municipality intends to invest in credit institutions that are not subject to any deposit guarantee or institution protection, it must inform itself particularly carefully. In particular, the credit institution’s rating should be used as a guide.

When it comes to investing liquid funds, the municipality generally limits itself to the following forms of investment:

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