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Failure to properly deal with revolving doors situations

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Showing 1 - 20 of 67 results

Decision in case 2168/2019/KR on the European Banking Authority’s decision to approve the request from its Executive Director to become CEO of a financial lobby group

Wednesday | 18 November 2020

The case concerned the decision of the European Banking Authority (EBA) to allow its Executive Director to take up a position as CEO of a lobby group.

The Ombudsman found two instances of maladministration and made three recommendations to avoid similar issues arising in future.

First, the EBA should, where necessary, invoke the option of forbidding its senior staff from taking up certain positions after their term-of-office. Any such prohibition should be time-limited, for example, for two years.

Second, the EBA should set out criteria for when it will forbid such moves in future so as to give clarity to senior staff. Applicants for senior EBA posts should be informed of the criteria when they apply.

Third, the EBA should put in place internal procedures so that once it is known that a member of its staff is moving to another job, their access to confidential information is cut off with immediate effect.

The Ombudsman closed the inquiry after the EBA accepted her recommendations and adopted measures to implement them.

The Ombudsman is confident that the policies the EBA has introduced will help it avoid damaging revolving door moves in the future. Other EU institutions and agencies should draw on these new EBA safeguards when revising their own rules.

 

Recommendation of the European Ombudsman in case 2168/2019/KR on how the European Banking Authority handled the move of its former Executive Director to become CEO of a financial industry lobby

Thursday | 07 May 2020

The Ombudsman received a complaint about the decision of the European Banking Authority (EBA) to allow its Executive Director to take up a position as CEO of an association representing banks, the Association for Financial Markets in Europe (AFME).

The Ombudsman conducted an inquiry, inspected the relevant EBA documents and found maladministration, first, in that the EBA should have forbidden the job move. While the EBA adopted extensive restrictions, these are not sufficient when measured against the risks involved. The Ombudsman considers that if this move does not justify the application of the option, set out in the Staff Regulations, to forbid a staff member accepting a job offer, no move would.

Second, there was maladministration in that the EBA did not, once notified of the planned move, immediately withdraw its Executive Director’s access to confidential information.

The Ombudsman issues three recommendations to the EBA, which should (i) where necessary in future, invoke the option of forbidding its senior staff from taking up certain positions after their term-of-office. Any such prohibition should be time-limited, for example, for two years; (ii) set out criteria for when it will forbid such moves in future so as to give clarity to senior staff. Applicants for senior EBA posts should be informed of the criteria when they apply; and (iii) put in place internal procedures so that once it is known that a member of its staff is moving to another job, their access to confidential information is cut off with immediate effect.

The EBA should reply to these recommendations within three months.

           
           

 

Decision of the European Ombudsman in her strategic inquiry OI/3/2017/NF on how the European Commission manages ‘revolving doors’ situations of its staff members

Thursday | 28 February 2019

The European Commission has a particular responsibility in relation to securing the highest possible standards of administration in the EU institutions. The Commission has generally high standards in the areas of ethics and transparency, however an ongoing and complex challenge - affecting many public administrations - is the so-called ‘revolving doors’ issue.

This inquiry was about how the Commission manages the ‘revolving door’ career moves of its staff, that is, where staff members leave to take up positions externally, for example in the private sector, or where individuals join the Commission particularly from the private sector. This may give rise to concerns about conflicts of interest, where inappropriate use is made of access and confidential information that assists in the lobbying of former colleagues in the EU civil service in the interests of external employers or clients.

The Ombudsman’s inquiry found that, at a systemic level, while its practices generally comply with the rules governing EU staff, more can be done to make those rules become more effective and therefore meaningful. New rules introduced in September 2018 provide greater clarity on what activities are prohibited and what subsequent employment activities need to be authorised. These rules need to be fully utilised and potentially improved.

At a technical level, the Commission has made good progress since the Ombudsman closed her first inquiry in this area. It should, however, examine whether it can take a more robust approach to preventing or dealing with serious cases of conflict, especially in the small number of cases of senior staff who leave for the private sector.

The Ombudsman also calls on the Commission to publish more information, and on a more regular basis, about senior staff who leave the Commission.

Finally, the Ombudsman urges the Commission to follow-up on the good transparency practices she has identified and shared with 15 other EU institutions, bodies, offices and agencies. This includes publishing information on former senior staff members’ lobbying bans directly on the Transparency Register. This would give the public a better picture of the hiring practices of lobbyists in the EU.

The Ombudsman closes the inquiry, encouraging the Commission to continue to lead by example but to take a more robust approach in its assessment of senior staff who leave the EU civil service. The Ombudsman also makes several detailed suggestions for improvement.

The Ombudsman also commits to a follow-up inquiry in 2020, looking more closely at how the Commission manages cases regarding a certain number of specific Commission departments (DGs).

Decision of the European Ombudsman in the joint inquiry into complaints 194/2017/EA, 334/2017/EA, and 543/2017/EA on the European Commission’s handling of post-mandate employment of former Commissioners, a former Commission President and the role of its ‘Ethics Committee’

Friday | 20 July 2018

The EU Treaties require Commissioners to act with integrity and discretion even after their mandates as Commissioners end. The Commission’s Code of Conduct for Commissioners seeks to ensure that Commissioners and former Commissioners comply with this duty. It states that, for a specified period of time after they have left office, former Commissioners should not lobby members of the Commission, or their staff, on matters for which they were previously responsible. Former Commissioners are also required, during that same period, to inform the Commission if they intend to accept a new job offer. The Commission then, after consulting a three‐person Ethics Committee, decides whether the proposed job is compatible with the duty to act with integrity and discretion.

In 2017, the Ombudsman received three complaints about how the Commission reacted when informed that a former Commission President was employed by Goldman Sachs International. The Commission consulted the Ethics Committee, which concluded that there were not sufficient grounds to establish a violation of the former Commission President’s legal obligations. When arriving at this conclusion, the Ethics Committee took into account the former Commission President’s written statement that he had not been engaged to lobby of behalf of Goldman Sachs and that he did not intend to do so.

The Commission did not follow-up on this opinion by taking a formal decision on the matter.

The Ombudsman inquired into the matter and found that the Commission should have taken a formal reasoned decision, based on a careful assessment of the opinion of the Ethics Committee. Its failure to do so constituted maladministration.

The Ombudsman also noted that the former Commission President had met with a current Commission Vice President in 2017. This meeting was registered as a meeting with Goldman Sachs. The content of the meeting also led to the conclusion that the meeting covered, at least in part, trade and defence matters. The Ombudsman noted that the Ethics Committee had, when adopting its opinion on the employment of the former Commission President, put special emphasis on his commitment not to lobby the Commission. In this context, the Ombudsman recommended that the Commission should refer the case back to the Ethics Committee for a new opinion. The Ombudsman also recommended that the Commission should consider formally requiring its former President to abstain from lobbying the Commission for an additional number of years.

The Ombudsman also found that while the present Commission had made real progress in improving the Code of Conduct, this case raised a number of outstanding systemic issues. In order for the Commission to further strengthen its procedures, the Ombudsman made a number of suggestions for improvement.

The Commission’s reply to the Ombudsman’s recommendations and suggestions for improvement was not satisfactory. The Ombudsman therefore closes her inquiry by confirming her finding of maladministration, her recommendations and her suggestions for improvement.