Thursday 21 November 2019

European ethics watchdog quizzes Draghi over elite forum for bankers

European Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly. Photo: Peter Cavanagh
European Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly. Photo: Peter Cavanagh

Francesco Canepa

The European Union's ethics watchdog is quizzing the European Central Bank President Mario Draghi over his and the ECB's involvement in an exclusive forum with bankers and fund managers.

In a letter to Mr Draghi published yesterday, European Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly said meetings of the Group of 30, where central bankers, economists and financiers talk behind closed doors, are "not transparent" and questioned the president's membership of the club.

"Where ECB members attend meetings organised by the Group of 30, they must abide by Treaty transparency requirements," Ms O'Reilly said in the letter. "However, Group of 30 meetings are not transparent."

Ms O'Reilly, the former Irish ombudsman and information commissioner, asked the ECB whether it would consider publishing agendas and summaries.

Mr Draghi has until September to reply in writing.

The new inquiry was triggered by a complaint by activist group Corporate Europe Observatory, which says the proximity between ECB officials and the G30 is incompatible with Frankfurt's role as the eurozone's top banking watchdog, taken up in 2014.

The G30 includes the chairmen of several commercial banks, such as JPMorgan's Jacob A Frenkel and UBS's Axel Weber.

A similar complaint was rejected by the Ombudsman in 2012. But Ms O'Reilly decided the ECB's new supervisory duties warranted a fresh enquiry.

A spokesman for the ECB said: "The group in question here is very diverse ... (and) we see it as a relevant forum to engage with, always remembering that we have a range of rules and instruments in place to avoid apparent or potential conflicts of interest."

Irish Independent

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