Based on evidence gathered via access to documents (namely the absence of any documents regarding the assessment of Mr Lippold for possible conflicts of interest), it appeared that the Commission had not undertaken any assessment considering Mr Lippold's previous career at ExxonMobil and his current energy-related functions at the Commission. See: http://www.asktheeu.org/en/request/staff_regulations_article_11a_2#incoming-394
However, in response to a letter from CEO and Greenpeace on 13 July, alleging that the apparent failure to assess potential conflicts of interest of Marcus Lippold (based on the absence of any documents) could constitute maladministration, the Comission rejected this suggestion. According to the Commission's letter dated 7 September, “Mr Lippold went through a standard recruitment procedure, which includes scrutinizing his CV and an interview. At the end of the procedure, it was concluded that Mr Lippold's experience in the oil industry was an asset for DG ENER. ” They state that the “mere fact that Mr Lippold worked in the past for Exxon Mobil ” does not mean he has any personal interest under Art. 11a. Moreover, they state that “There is indeed no reason why a candidate for a post should be discarded due to a previous job assignment in the industry.”
This is not however what CEO suggested, we simply contend that previous career history - including former employers and / or clients where they relate to the official's present functions - is more than sufficient grounds to fully examine whether any impairment of independence could occur. Nor does the outcome of such an examination have to result in a candidate being discarded; it could simply lead to certain restrictions regarding particular dossiers or clients being agreed. Yet it is still far from evident, without any documentation to so demonstrate, that scrutinizing a CV and an interview constitutes a full assessment of potential conflicts of interest.
In response to concerns about frequent contact with industry and potential bias, the Commission stated that Mr Lippold's "capacity to influence a policy debate involving a variety of actors, including at Commissioner level, should not be overestimated: like any other official, Mr Lippold carries out his tasks under the supervision of his hierarchy.” See Other info, below, for more details.
Prior to joining the Commission, Mr Lippold had a long career in the oil industry. He joined ExxonMobil in 1992 to become Head of Department for Financial Reporting and Analysis for the company's Central European activities, followed by several management positions in the areas of Finance, Marketing and Information Technology. His most recent positions before joining the European Commission were Fixed Assets Manager for Europe, ExxonMobil Hungary BSC and ERP Systems Change Manager for Finance, ExxonMobil CAS. See: http://be.linkedin.com/pub/marcus-lippold/1/ab/a91
Now his role at Directorate General for Energy makes him responsible for international energy relations. This encompasses the coordination of bilateral oil dialogues and international cooperation (OPEC and non-OPEC countries) and the Oil and Gas dimension in international forums (G8, G20, IEA etc.), with a special focus on energy dialogues with the OPEC Secretariat, Saudi Arabia, UAE, GCC, IEF and the Arctic Forum. He apparently also coordinates the adoption of EU energy legislation in the Energy Community countries (Balkans, Ukraine, Turkey). See: http://be.linkedin.com/pub/marcus-lippold/1/ab/a91
Previously we understand that he was a senior energy economist at DG-Tren working on oil and coal related legislation. His portfolio included European oil upstream and downstream sectors and related refinery products and product markets. In 2009, he led a study assessing the competitive aspects of the oil product markets in the EU 27. See: http://www.bbspetroleum.com/files/Sofia_Upstream_Workshop/Marcus_Lippold_CV_short-Sept20-2010.pdf
Marcus Lippold has also been involved in some discussions on the implementation of the EU’s Fuel Quality Directive. The Directive sets a carbon intensity reduction target for transport fuels but no rules have been set so far as to how to measure the carbon intensity of fossil fuels. The Climate Commissioner (Connie Hedegaard) has proposed default values for fuels from different feedstock such as oil, gas or tar sands. Canada and the oil industry oppose the inclusion of a tar sands value, so does the Energy Commissioner (Günther Oettinger). It is clear that there is not yet a common view on this important issue across the whole Commission but CEO considers that there is a risk that the internal Commission debate to agree a policy in the public interest could be distorted if a former oil-industry staffer is able to participate as an official when there has been no assessment of possible conflicts of interest.
In response to our concerns about Mr Lippold's frequent contact with the oil and fuel industry, the Commission responded that we "do not provide any factual element suggesting that Mr Lippold's behaviour on these occasions was biased or partial.” With respect to concerns about ensuring impartiality in policymaking, specifically the EU's Fuel Quality Directive, the Commission said of Lippold that “his capacity to influence a policy debate involving a variety of actors, including at Commissioner level, should not be overestimated: like any other official, Mr Lippold carries out his tasks under the supervision of his hierarchy. ” Both of these answers circumvent the fact that the onus is on the institution to ensure their staff are working in the public interest, most clearly by ensuring possible conflicts of interests have been transparently and substantively assessed. It remains the fact that this prerequisite cannot be seen to have been demonstrated.
Update 18 November 2015: CEO has now discovered that Lippold has gone on sabbatical from DG Energy to the European energy company MOL Group and now to Saudi Aramco, the world's biggest oil and gas company. More information about these shocking revolving door sabbaticals can be read here. You can also read about 15 other energy/ climate/ environment-related revolving door stories in our November 2015 report: Brussels, big energy, and revolving doors: a hothouse for climate change.
"Article 11a of the Staff Regulations refers to the need to regulate 'personal interests' amongst Commission staff when they relate to their EU work. We consider that a robust definition of “personal interests” should include previous career history including former employers and / or clients where they relate to the official's present functions. Yet the Commission does not appear to have undertaken any assessment of whether or not Mr Lippold has a conflict of interest. Although the Commission states that a standard recruitment procedure including scrutinizing his CV and an interview was followed, it is far from evident, without any documentation to so demonstrate, that scrutinizing a CV and an interview constitutes a transparent and substantive assessment of potential conflicts of interest. We consider that this could be maladministration: considering Mr Lippold’s previous career, it appears that there is a risk of conflicts of interest arising in his current functions and it looks as if the Commission has not recognised this, explored it or taken action as a result."