EU Commission Forced By Pubic Opinion To Review Barroso Goldman Sachs Scandal

20th September 2016 / EU

In reaction to the European Commission referring its former president Barroso’s Goldman Sachs appointment to an ethics committee, Corporate Europe Observatory’s transparency campaigner Vicky Cann said:

The referral is a welcome first step but it is two months too late! The Commission has been forced onto the back foot by public opinion and notable interventions by the Ombudsman, MEPs and institution staff themselves. The Commission really needs to up its game on this and other revolving door cases. And a revamp of the rules for exiting commissioners must quickly follow. But the Barroso case is not a one-off. It is also essential that the cases of Karel De Gucht and Neelie Kroes are referred to the ethics committee, looking to see all three former commissioners’ EU pension entitlements removed at the Court of Justice.

Without doubt the Barroso revolving door case is so blatant the only thing that seems to surprise is that Barroso thought he could get away with it so easily. Never before has a former European Commission official been criticised as much for their post-EU career as ex-Commission president Barroso since joining infamous US investment bank Goldman Sachs earlier this summer. Despite its scandalous nature, his move did not come as a complete surprise, given previous revolving door cases involving former EU commissioners. Citizens have every reason to ask if Barroso’s move goes against the public interest: evidence already points towards a gross violation of the EU Treaty.

José Manuel Barroso’s decision to become chairman of Goldman Sachs International and an adviser to the big investment bank very much fits with his stewardship of the Commission. From the beginning, his leadership followed a corporate agenda on a very wide range of issues, with its close links to the biggest businesses and banks in the EU representing a key trait of the way the European Commission operates.

“Barroso’s move to Goldman Sachs, after presiding over the Commission for two terms, during which important banking regulation was enacted by EU institutions, damages the reputation of the Commission and threatens the credibility of the EU as a whole among EU citizens”.

And the Barroso case appears to contain even more risks than other similar cases. Goldman Sachs has on many occasions defined political aims in the field of financial regulation that are highly controversial. It is known to use dubious methods, both in the market place and when pursuing its political agenda; and it is powerful, operating a well-oiled lobby machine that helps it meet its ends. With that in mind, Barroso’s move to Goldman Sachs has the potential both to ignite scandals and to put the EU institutions in an awkward position.

And one should not forget what Goldman Sachs actually does for a living. Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi’s depiction of Goldman as “a giant vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money” was followed with Greg Smith’s rather charitable reference to Goldman as nothing more than “toxic and destructive” in a New York Times op-ed. Since the 1980’s Goldman has been involved in some of the most egregious acts of criminality the world has ever seen. Its ‘rap-sheet‘ is almost never-ending, too long to list here. This year alone it was fined $5.2billion for just one crime, of defrauding its own investors. This criminal enterprise was in large part involved in driving the world economy into the deepest recession experienced since the Great Depression. Ten million Americans lost their homes and GS was there to hoover up the debris – for profit of course. And this is where Barroso has decided his talents are best put to use. That says a lot about the man and his past, present and what will happen in future if he is allowed to continue to advise crooked operations like GS to manipulate EU legislation in their favour.

At the time of his appointment, Barroso told the Financial Times that as part of his role at Goldman Sachs he will do what he can to “mitigate the negative effects” of the Brexit decision. Barroso will be a key part of Goldman Sachs’ artillery as it does battle to retain access to EU financial markets, via so-called equivalence or passporting rules. Whether it is at the UK or EU level, Barroso will likely be able to deliver insights, access and influence, hardly in keeping with the duty to behave with integrity and discretion. Even then, Barroso expects to keep his very generous EU Commissioner’s pension.

The referral of Barroso’s Goldman Sachs appointment to an ethical committee was revealed a few days ago, as the European Ombudsman’s office published EU President Juncker’s full reply to the Ombudsman’s letter concerning this revolving doors move. Juncktr’s response was as expected as all it promised was that Barroso had given his assurances that he would act with ‘integrity and discretion’. Clearly, he has no intention of doing so demonstrated so well by accepting such a senior position with Goldman Sachs.

Ex-trade commissioner Karel De Gucht recently joined the board of mining giant ArcelorMittal; ex-digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes recently joined tech firms Uber and Salesforce.

An ongoing citizens’ petition continues to urge the overhaul of the European Commission’s revolving doors regulation and demands the withdrawal of Barroso’s EU pension.

This article was made up in part from two articles with kind permission of Corporate Europe Observatory entitled “Barroso’s Gold-plated revolving door” and “Commission referral of Barroso scandal to ethics committee comes two months late”.

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