UK’s Ex-EU Commissioner Hill Goes Through Revolving Door On Brexit Launch Day

3rd April 2017 / EU
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By Graham Vanbergen and Corporate Europe Observatory: Let’s not beat around the bush here. Big business employ lobbying companies to persuade government to meet their interests. Government officials line their pockets with huge quantities of cash thrown around places like the House of Commons or Brussels, the de-facto capital of the European Union, where the sole purpose of some 40,000 lobbyists is to undermine public interest and safety in return for enhancing corporate profits.

The movement of senior and highly influential personnel between roles as legislators and regulators and the industries affected by legislation and regulation is to say the least one of the most damaging affects of modern day politics that threatens the principles of real democracy and real capitalism – both of which are under attack from an increasingly desperate neoliberal ideology. Quite simply put, lobbying is dangerous and undermines civil safety and security, civil liberties and human rights.

An excellent example is the reaction to the European Commission’s authorisation of ex-EU financial commissioner Jonathan Hill’s appointment at law firm Freshfields. Corporate Europe Observatory’s revolving doors campaigner Margarida Silva said:

“The appointment of UK ex-EU financial commissioner Hill at law firm Freshfields is the kind of job that proper revolving doors rules would have prohibited. The firm is essentially a lobby actor and advisor on EU financial regulation with several UK financial industry clients.

“So assuming the weak conditions imposed on Hill would prevent any conflicts of interest is ridiculous. Instead of authorising his move with meagre, unenforceable conditions, the Commission should have rejected it.

“And with Article 50 to be triggered today, the timing of the authorisation is also quite bizarre, as lobbying around the Brexit negotiations cannot be ruled out.”

The EU Commission’s notice about ex-EU Commissioner Hill’s approval can be accessed here.

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Revolving door issues have been following Jonathan Hill since before he was appointed as EU Commissioner in 2014. The previously held positions in public relations firms had rendered him an unsuitable choice for the EU Commission’s top financial and banking policy post from the get go. When MEPs quizzed him about his past roles as part of the confirmation process as Commissioner, he refused to answer any questions about his former financial lobby clients.”

In 2014 MEPs on the economic and monetary affairs committee refused to authorise commissioner-designate Hill after a three-hour hearing, on the grounds that they were unsatisfied with his answers on some areas of policy, as well as ongoing concerns about his background as a corporate lobbyist. Instead the committee chose to send Hill a further 23 questions to answer.

Among these questions was a request to provide “a complete list of the financial services clients he personally, or the companies in which he held directorships or shares, worked for”. In his reply, Hill refused to provide such a list saying it is not in my possession”.

Hill is someone who has had no fewer than four trips through the revolving door between UK government politics (always for Conservative party governments) and the lobby/ PR industry. He co-founded Quiller Consultants in 1998 after stints at Bell Pottinger Communications and Lowe Bell Communications. Quiller was taken over by Huntsworth in 2006; Huntsworth also owns Grayling (which has a major EU presence) and Citigate in the UK.

Controversial UK public relations firm Bell Pottinger was recently uncovered in a scandal as they had received over half a billion dollars to run a top secret propaganda programme in Iraq following the US/UK invasion that led to a million innocent civilians losing their lives and the now near destruction of peace in the Middle-East.

Brewin Dolphin is one of the largest British investment management and financial planning firms. Citadel is a big US-based hedge fund which also carries out high frequency trading; in 2009, Citadel Investment Group actively lobbied the UK parliament on the Alternative Fund Managers Directive.

Citadel is one of America’s largest high frequency traders and back in 2016 the Dept of Justice was probing Citadel for its ‘front-running’ practices – the practice by market-makers of dealing on advance information provided by their brokers and investment analysts, before their clients have been given the information.

Meanwhile, Marwyn is a UK based asset management and investment management company which manages 15 funds.

Today, Quiller still represents HSBC, as well as the City of London Corporation. The City of London Corporation has warmly welcomed Hill’s allocation of the financial services role.

The City of London uses a lobby arm that spent nearly £35million last year to influence policy-making by legislators at the EU with key victories on banking regulation, hedge fund regulation, and complicated financial products such as derivatives, often at the cost of regulation in the public interest.

In the end, lobbyists such as Jonathan Hill use their knowledge and privileged position to operate in the shadows. Best described by one of their own as:  “The influence of lobbyists increases when it goes largely unnoticed by the public. But if the reasons why companies lobby are often obscured, it is always a tactical investment. Whether facing down a threat to profits from a corporate tax hike, or pushing for market opportunities – such as government privatisations – lobbying has become another way of making money.”

 

 

 

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