Royal Bank of Scotland
Despite its size and power, the UK state-owned Royal Bank of Scotland Group keeps a low profile in Brussels. It does not declare its lobbying activities in the European Commission’s lobby register, yet behind closed doors, it is an active player and earlier this year moved to boost its influence, hiring former European industry commissioner Günter Verheugen as an advisor.
The Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) is very active in lobbying the EU institutions through its own lobbyists, through hired lobby consultancy Gplus and through its membership of various banking industry coalitions, including Deutscher Derivative Verband, the European Parliamentary Financial Services Forum, the International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA) and the European Banking Federation (EBF), all of which have been lobbying during the crisis.
Recent lobbying activities have focused on the Capital Requirements Directive and new rules on derivatives and retail financial services.
The European Commission expects all lobbying to be declared in the lobby transparency register, launched in 2008. But RBS has not signed up to the register, evading public scrutiny of its lobbying activities and the amount of money it spends.
In April 2010, RBS announced that it had hired former EU industry Commissioner Günter Verheugen as “senior advisor and vice chairman of Global Banking and Markets in Europe, Middle East and Africa”. Verheugen, who had left the Commission just two months earlier, had been intricately involved in reform of the banking sector, including through the reform of the Better Regulation Agenda. The appointment raised a clear conflict of interest – presumably part of the attraction for RBS. Verheugen’s inside knowledge and contacts give the bank a clear advantage.
An RBS spokesperson celebrated Verheugen’s appointment saying: “His experience in European politics and its national and international contacts are very valuable for RBS”.
But Verheugen appears to have forgotten to tell his former employers at the European Commission about the appointment, despite clear rules stating that ex-Commissioners must give prior notice if they are taking a job in the commercial sector. EU spokesman Michael Mann declared he was not “aware” of the appointment. Verheugen appears to have failed to respect the most basic integrity rule that applies to former Commissioners considering jobs in the private sector.
But neither RBS nor Verheugen seemed concerned by this and three months later the Commission approved the deal. Verheugen was said to have given assurances that the new roles excluded any sort of lobbying. The lack of strong rules against the revolving door at the Commission will help RBS continue with its secret lobbying.