Spying scandal: Bayer suspension of lobby firm highlights weak EU rules
Chemical company Bayer last night suspended its contract with Brussels’ biggest lobby consultancy firm FleishmanHillard.
Reacting to this latest development in the scandal surrounding the consultancy’s alleged spying on critics of glyphosate-producer Monsanto, purchased by Bayer in 2018, Corporate Europe Observatory’s agribusiness researcher Nina Holland said:
“The scandal highlights the problematic way in which for-hire lobby consultancies often support dodgy corporate lobbying in Brussels.
“FleishmanHillard keeping detailed personal files on Monsanto’s critics is probably just the tip of the iceberg: companies pay huge sums to lobbyists for the defense of harmful products. The unfolding spying scandal underlines that current EU lobby regulations are much too weak to discourage unethical lobbying”.
Notes to editors:
What the scandal is about: According to media reports, lobby consultancy firm FleishmanHillard compiled a dossier of about 200 politicians, journalists, scientists and NGOs who had raised concerns about its client Monsanto's Roundup weed killer. The files are supposed to have included not only the concerned individuals’ views on pesticides and on Monsanto, but also personal information such as hobbies, as well as personal data like addresses and phone numbers. In response to these revelations by French daily newspaper Le Monde, French judicial police earlier this week opened an enquiry into the possible "collection of personal information by fraudulent, unfair or illicit means".
According to data from the EU’s lobby transparency register, Fleishman-Hillard is the biggest lobby consultancy firm in Brussels with declared lobby spending of up to €7 million in 2018. The lobby firm, which has no less than 59 lobbyists with a European Parliament access badge, reports having received €400,000-€499,999 for lobbying on the behalf of Monsanto last year.
Companies in the EU’s lobby transparency register are currently obliged to follow a weak and vaguely worded code of conduct. The transparency register, moreover, lacks resources for active oversight and enforcement. See for instance’s ALTER-EU’s “Briefing on the Code of Conduct for Lobbyists”
Nina Holland, email@example.com, +32 (0) 2893 0930