Benita Ferrero-Waldner

Former employer
European Commission
Former function
Commissioner for external relations and then trade
New function
Supervisory board member
New employer
Munich Re, Gamesa Corporación Technologica, Alpine Holding
Policy area
Date of Revolving Door
Institutional reaction

Approval was given to Ferrero-Waldner for all the roles for which she had sought permission.

Other info

Ferrero-Waldner had already started negotiating her future job with Munich Re while she was still in office, as her application for authorisation to the Commission was dated 29 October 2009 when in fact she did not leave the Commission until 9 February 2010. She officially joined the Munich Re board on 12 February 2010. Ferrero-Waldner's remuneration from Munich Re was €50,000 in 2011 and €80,000 in 2012.

Munich Re is the world's largest insurance group with global operations covering reinsurance, primary insurance and international health business. The company was a leading player in the Desertec project (large-scale solar energy investments in Africa), which Ferrero-Waldner had, on several occasions, expressed strong support for during her time as commissioner.

In 2010, Ferrero-Waldner also became an independent director of Gamesa Corporación Tecnológica S.A; she apparently left this role in 2013. She remains an external director of Grupo Gamesa S.A.

In 2010, CEO complained to the European Ombudsman about the Commission approval given for Ferrero-Waldner's new jobs at Munich Re and Gamesa. In his final decision, the Ombudsman rejected CEO's primary concern, although he did remark:

“When carrying out the necessary in-depth assessments of possible conflicts of interest affecting former commissioners, it would be advisable for the Commission to ensure that all the necessary inquiries or other investigative measures undertaken in the context of that assessment are duly completed and that adequate records are kept as regards all these steps.”

In January 2011, Ferrero-Waldner joined the advisory board of Alpine Holding Gmbh. “Mrs. Ferrero-Waldner will support Alpine on its expansion with her high competence she achieved during her impressive international career” explained Dietmar Aluta-Oltyan, President of the Supervisory Board and Co-Owner of Alpine Group at the time. This job was also approved by the Commission. She left the board in May 2013. In October 2012, Alpine went public about its liquidity troubles and it went into administration in June 2013. It has been reported that the annual accounts of the group are under investigation.

She also is a member of the International Advisory Board of the architect Norman Foster.

All ex-commissioners are entitled to between 40 and 65 per cent of their final basic salary for the three years after they have left office. In addition, the transitional allowance scheme provides for commissioners to earn up to a further €9000 (approximately) a month from other sources without their pay-out being affected. In CEO's view, the transitional allowance, the purpose of which was to enable ex-commissioners to not have to seek out immediate new employment, and thus avoid the risk of possible conflicts of interests, clearly needs to be reformed.

CEO contacted Ms Ferrero-Waldner for comment before publishing this article. She told us:

“Let me say that I have declared all my activities to the Commission in line with the established procedures and that there is no question of any conflict of Interest. I have nothing to add to that.”

For more information see: Revolving door provides privileged access

Update: October 2016

In July 2016, the European Ombudsman issued a ruling of maladministration against the Commission over its handling of a further revolving doors role held by Ferrero-Waldner at Gamesa for which she had failed to seek authorisation under the revolving door rules, in 2010. The Ombudsman said:

... the Barroso Commission failed adequately to deal with the former Commissioner's breach of ... the 2004 Code of Conduct for Commissioners

The Ombudsman's office received information about this role in 2013, via an anonymous leak. The Commission only took action to verify the matter once the issue had been raised with it by the Ombudsman. According to the Ombudsman, the Commission's Ad hoc Ethical Committee concluded "that, if the [Gamesa] contract had been notified to it in time, it would have taken the view that it did not offer sufficient guarantees as to its compatibility with" the EU treaty. But ultimately, in February 2014, the college of the Barroso II Commission decided not to take further action in relation to this matter, as Ferrero-Waldner had provided further clarification and also argued she had left the role in 2012.

In response to the Commission's inaction, the Ombudsman said:

Having left office, former Commissioners have attractive pension and benefits packages which compensate them for any temporary restrictions on their occupational activities. EU citizens are entitled to expect that all former Commissioners will behave properly in this regard and that, if not, the current Commission will act with the wider interests of the EU as its priority.

The details of the new role at Gamesa can be found in this access to documents request. In October 2016, the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant reported this story.

This case provides further evidence that the Commission's revolving door procedures and rules, and perhaps even its moral compass, are not up to the job of taking action to prevent problematic revolving doors moves.

Comment from CEO

“It is shocking that Ferrero-Waldner was able to apparently negotiate several of her new roles, including with Munich Re, whilst still in office; shocking still that it was subsequently approved by the Commission. CEO considers that the code of conduct for commissioners should be revised to ban commissioners from negotiating future roles while in office and to introduce a three-year cooling off period for jobs which involve lobbying, lobbying advice or where the risk of conflicts of interest are high.”