NATO has told CEO via email that
“It is common for former NATO officials, including former Secretaries General, to move on to outside activities after their time with the organization. There is a code of conduct for all staff at NATO including Secretaries General during their office term. However, there are no specific rules which apply to post-employment at this moment.”
The code of conduct is not a public document but a summary of it is available online.
“the Alliance’s top international civil servant. This person is responsible for steering the process of consultation and decision-making within the Alliance and ensuring that decisions are implemented. The Secretary General is also NATO’s chief spokesperson and heads the Organisation’s International Staff, which provides advice, guidance and administrative support to the national delegations at NATO HQs.”
Rasmussen was previously the Danish prime minister from 2001 to 2009.
On 1 October 2014, the day after he left NATO, Rasmussen announced that he had set up Rasmussen Global, a new consultancy to
“offer strategic advice to governments, global organizations and major corporations. Rasmussen Global will collaborate with a broad range of partners in Europe and the US, drawing on Mr. Rasmussen’s extensive network of leading policy experts, former officials, business executives and consulting firms around the globe.”
Speaking at the time, Rasmussen said:
“I look forward to continuing my focus on issues such as international security, transatlantic relations, the European Union and globalization. Rasmussen Global will help global decision makers advance innovation, trade and security in the face of new and multifaceted challenges.”
Yet Rasmussens' move to set up a consultancy so soon after leaving NATO has attracted strong criticism. Reinhard Butikofer, a German MEP, was quoted by Reuters as saying:
“Starting a consultancy lobbying on security issues immediately after stepping down as NATO secretary general is inappropriate and unacceptable.”
Rasmussen has defended himself saying:
"I haven't started any concrete activity until today because I didn't want the slightest conflict of interest. I have built a huge amount of experience during all these years and I think it is also in the public interest that I use that experience for the public good”.
While NATO does not have any specific revolving door rules, there are some elements of its staff code of conduct which could be relevant in this case. These are that NATO staff will:
Not use our NATO position or proprietary information to unfairly secure future employment and will not use privileged information to unfair advantage after our NATO employment.
Avoid situations that might result in real, perceived, or potential conflicts between our personal interests and those of the Alliance.
Not use non-public information obtained through our official position for private gain, either for ourselves or others.
Avoid actions that could be perceived as an abuse of the privileges and immunities conferred on the Organization and its staff.”
NATO did not reply to CEO's specific question about whether it had placed any restrictions on Rasmussen's work at Rasmussen Global, leading CEO to conclude that NATO has taken no action in this case. NATO further refused to release any details to CEO of the salary, pension or other financial benefits accorded to Rasmussen.
CEO contacted Rasmussen before publishing this article but no response was received, including to questions which asked Rasmussen what steps he took to prevent the risk of conflicts of interest; when and who he informed in NATO about his proposed new role; and the clients of Rasmussen Global.
This is not the first foray by a member of the Rasmussen family into consultancy work. Henrik Fogh Rasmussen, Ramussen's son, is based in the US and in 2011 he founded Rasmussen Public Affairs where he specialises in “the strategic positioning of clients as global and local agenda setters”. OpenSecrets.org shows that Rasmussen Public Affairs was active in US lobbying in 2013; he has also advocated that Danish businesses operating in the US get involved in lobbying activities.
Henrik Rasmussen was previously vice-president at DCI Group which Sourcewatch.org has criticised for using front groups posing as grassroots organisations (which is also known as 'astroturfing'), to mask the true funders and drivers of a lobby campaign. He has also been partner and co-founder of the consulting firm Competere Geopolitical Management and director of European operations at the online opinion journal TCS Daily.
Update 5 August 2015: The media report that Goldman Sachs has hired Fogh Rasmussen as an advisor to "solve a public dispute over sales of stakes in Dong", Denmark’s state-controlled power producer to Goldman Sachs.
“This is a really shocking example of an ex-official going through the revolving door and offering his reputation, contacts and insider know-how for private gain. To launch such a consultancy the day after leaving office, a consultancy aimed at advising major corporations among other clients, on exactly the issues that Rasmussen has dealt with while at NATO is blatant cashing-in. Rasmussen must have been setting-up this consultancy whilst still Secretary General; NATO should look very closely at this case introduce some revolving door rules urgently to prevent such a situation arising again.”