The financial industry now wields so much power in Brussels that 900 of 1700 European Parliamentary amendments tabled to an EU directive on hedge funds and private equity funds were actually authored by financial industry lobbyists.
In a report published this week by the Corporate Europe Observatory, a transparency campaign group, this ‘copy and paste’ legislation by lobbyists was just one of the examples cited to show the way the financial services sector has controlled the so-called ‘reforms’ implemented by the EU in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.
The report, called ‘The Fire Power of the Financial Lobby,’ says that the industry spends more than €123m a year to employ nearly 2000 lobbyists in Brussels. The industry has lobbied on the post-crisis EU regulation by way of over 700 financial sector organisations.
Registration in the official EU transparency registry by lobbyists remains voluntary, and no financial information supplied to the commission for the registry is checked by any European Commission staff.
The report calculates that €26m of the €123m spent by financial sector lobbying groups each year is spent by groups who are not registered, or around €1 in every €5.
Over 140 financial industry organisations active in EU lobbying come from the UK.
According to the report, among the 17 ‘expert groups’ formed by the European Commission to shape the first draft of financial regulations, 15 were dominated by the industry.
This is part of the ‘privileged access’ financial lobbyists have to EU decision makers.
At the European Parliament, MEPs on the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, which deals with the regulation of the financial markets, have been particular targets of lobbyists.
Over a period of two years, Sven Giegold, a German MEP who was on the committee from 2009 to 2012, received requests for meetings from 142 financial industry organisations and related public affairs and law firms.
According to the report, “in the first half of 2013, the total group of 25 British Conservative MEPs that disclosed their meetings in a ‘lobby-list’ on their website met with 74 different financial industry organisations and related public affairs and law firms.”
In these meetings, “The whole range of financial market regulation was discussed, from recovery and resolution of banks in trouble to derivatives trading and taxation. Among the most active organisations in these lobby meetings were not only industry associations, but also individual corporations like JP Morgan (seven meetings), Citigroup (four meetings) and Goldman Sachs (three meetings).”
Increasingly important targets for industry lobbyists are the new supervisory agencies set up in the wake of EU reforms. These agencies cover banking, insurance and securities markets: “When most of the legislative work is done, EU agencies such as the European Central Bank, the European Stability Mechanism, and European Supervisory Agencies, are supposed to supervise the financial markets and report potential risks and problems.”
“These agencies have all set up a variety of advisory groups, often called ‘contact groups,’ which are comprised of representative of financial corporations or their lobbying associations.”
The report notes that the European Council was left out of the survey, “since we could not get access to any information on the lobbying that is taking place at the Council level.”