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Italian premier says measure helping 4 local banks saved thousands of jobs, private savings

MILAN – Italian Premier Matteo Renzi on Thursday defended the government’s move to save four local banks, saying it preserved savings accounts and thousands of jobs.

Renzi told reporters in Rome that the government was working to find a solution for other classes of investors, in particular 10,000 bondholders whose investments were wiped out under burden-sharing conditions set by the European Union. Some 130,000 shareholders also lost their investments.

Renzi said that while some bondholders may have overlooked the risks, others “knowingly retained a higher rate of return on their investment than they would have receive with a savings account or a government bond.”

He said any solution would have to abide by EU rules.

The government this month signed a measure saving the four banks — Cassa di Risparmio di Ferrara, Banca delle Marche, Banca Etruria and CariChieti — with a 4 billion euro ($4.4 billion) fund put up by three healthy Italy banks, Unicredit, Intesa SanPaolo and Ubi Banca.

The government acted to save the ailing banks ahead of new EU rules coming into effect Jan. 1 that will make such measures tougher.

The Codacons consumer advocacy group, meanwhile, is asking prosecutors to investigate the suicide of a retired investor who lost 110,000 euros in bonds at the Banca Etruria to see if any action by public of private entities contributed to the suicide.

Codacons said it was also planning legal action to recoup the entirety of lost investments.