OLAF's leaked Dalligate report underlines need to end tobacco lobbyist's role as EU ethics adviser
Corporate Europe Observatory, Corporate Accountability International and LobbyControl have today urged Commission President Barroso to end Michel Petite's membership of the Commission's ad hoc ethical committee. Mr. Petite is the former head of the Commission's Legal Service who went through the revolving door to work for Clifford Chance, a lobbying-law-firm with corporate clients such as tobacco giant Phillip Morris. OLAF's investigation report on the case around ex-Commissioner Dalli, leaked last week, has provided further evidence on Petite's work for the tobacco industry.
The report shows that Petite had a central role in the events that led to Dalli's forced resignation (under yet to be clarified circumstances, following bribery accusations) in mid-October 2012. Petite assisted tobacco company Swedish Match in submitting the complaint that triggered the OLAF investigation into the Dalli case, using his access to the Commission's Secretary-General Catherine Day, a former colleague at the European Commission. It had previously been revealed that Mr Petite held meetings with his former colleagues in the Legal Service to advise on the EU's Tobacco Products Directive, whilst having tobacco company Phillip Morris International as a client. Petite's work for Swedish Match (and Phillip Morris) creates serious conflicts of interest that make his membership of the ad hoc ethical committee politically untenable. The three groups also point out that, due to his work for the tobacco industry, Michel Petite's membership of the Commission's ethical committee violates the implementation guidelines of Article 5.3 of the UN's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
In March the European Ombudsman launched an investigation into Mr Petite's reappointment as EU ethics adviser, following a complaint by Corporate Europe Observatory, Corporate Accountability International and LobbyControl. The Ombudsman is investigating whether Petite's reappointment breaches the requirement for members of the ad hoc ethical committee to be independent and to have an 'impeccable record of professional behaviour'.
The Ombudsman has also just launched a new investigation into OLAF's rejection of public access to the investigation report on the Dalli case. Corporate Europe Observatory had asked for access to the report with reference to the EU's freedom of information law. The Ombudsman's inquiry is important not just to determine whether OLAF's secrecy was justified, but also because the leaked version of the investigation report is incomplete. Several key pages and annexes are missing.
Meanwhile Corporate Europe Observatory has been informed that its complaint to the Transparency Register secretariat against Swedish Match for violating the EU's Code of Conduct for lobbyists will be examined, but only "upon completion of the current judiciary process underway in Malta". The complaint (submitted end of March) highlights Swedish Match's unethical lobbying (going to Malta to find Dalli's personal contacts, who could enable the company to access the Commissioner, and hiring unregistered lobbyists in the process) as well as the fact that the company has lied to MEPs about Dalligate.