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McCreevy quits investment firm after conflict of interest ruling

FORMER Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy stepped down from the board of a British investment firm yesterday after a Brussels committee found a conflict of interest with his previouswork as EU commissioner in charge of financial regulation.

The former Fianna Fail TD is the first former commissioner to be warned off a new post.

Mr McCreevy joined the board of NBNK Investments as a non-executive director in July with an initial salary of €61,000 a year. This was to double to €122,000 if NBNK completed a major acquisition.

His decision to take the post prompted Labour Party MEP Nessa Childers to dub him the "real-life Gordon Gekko", a reference to the avaricious corporate raider from 1980s blockbuster 'Wall Street'.

Mr McCreevy was told in August the EU's ethics committee found the new post conflicted with an oath he had taken as the bloc's financial services chief, a position he held for five years until February.

The oath says commissioners have a "duty to behave with integrity and discretion as regards the acceptance, after they have ceased to hold office, of certain appointments or benefits".

The ethics committee is bound by EU law to investigate any job offers being considered by former top brass in the year after they leave office.

The panel waved through Mr McCreevy's application to join the board of Ryanair in May, but his involvement with NBNK was not given the green light.

Mr McCreevy was known for his light-touch approach to regulation, but he was forced to backtrack after the crisis hit.


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In fact, in the year before he left office he launched a series of controversial rules to rein in hedge funds and credit rating agencies, and it was under his stewardship that a seminal package of legislation on financial supervision was published.

Sources in the Commission confirmed that Mr McCreevy had informed them late on Wednesday night of his decision to resign from the board of the London-based company.

NBNK's business strategy is based on buying up other holdings with a view to building a "new and substantial UK bank", concentrating on the retail and SME markets, it says on its website.

The company said in a statement yesterday, "Following a dialogue with the European Commission, it has not been possible to find a way in which Mr McCreevy can continue with his directorship of NBNK . . . (He) has resigned from the board with immediate effect."

The two months leading up to Mr McCreevy's resignation were marked by a series of attempts to get the EU panel to change its mind as he "tried different ways" to get around the decision, according to one well-placed EU source.

The Commission refused to comment on the decision on the record, but one official said, "For us, it's clear that a former internal market and financial services commissioner can't work in an investment bank."

Ms Childers said in a statement, "The brand of light-touch financial regulation presided over by Mr McCreevy and the talent he has shown for collecting highly-paid jobs since his departure from the Commission shows how the Gekko catchphrase of 'greed is good' suits McCreevy very well. Gekko was an icon of 1980s-style casino capitalism, and McCreevy is the 21st-century version."