Former employer: DG Competition (for 6 years), Case-handler
Date: March, 2011
New employer: Avisa Partners , Associate director on competition
"The Appointing Authority gives you its approval to carry out this activity, as described in your request, on condition that you will avoid any situation of conflict of interest in your new function, particularly you will abstain from dealing with cases on which you have worked in the frame of your functions at DG Comp, and more particularly on the cases listed in the attachment”. Attachment lists many cases including Sumitomo Chemicals/ Itochu Corporation/ Tokyo INK Manufacturing Company/ AK&N. In addition, the Commission said: "I regret that you have not introduced your request for authorisation in accordance with the provisions of Article 16 of the Staff Regulations". No sanctions were implemented for this breach in the rules. However, the Commission has admitted that Pablo Asbo received no specific reminder of his obligations when he left. In a letter to CEO, the Commission wrote that “I confirm that there have been no specific or individual communications with … Mr Asbo with regard to obligations under Article 16 of the Staff Regulations before September 2011. … For your information, all agents working in the Directorate-General for Competition receive a copy of the Ethical Code of the Directorate-General for Competition as well as a presentation of the obligations under the Staff Regulations." Source: Letter from European Commission to Corporate Europe Observatory dated 15 March 2012.
Comment from CEO:
“Mr Asbo failed to apply for authorisation before he started his new job at Avisa Partners, as he was required to do under the revolving door rules. However, the Commission has also admitted that it did not remind him to do so when he left. The Commission should tighten up on the processes when staff leave to make sure that they are fully aware of their responsibilities."
"Ultimately, the Commission approved Mr Asbo’s new job at Avisa Partners under the condition that he would abstain from dealing with cases on which he worked at DG Competition. CEO considers that the Commission did not rigorously scrutinise this application for authorisation. The Commission looked at the Avisa website but did not ask for further clarification about what work or clients were specifically involved. Despite the ban on Pablo Asbo working on specific cases upon which he had worked whilst at the Commission, we consider that this might not be sufficient to prevent the risk of wider conflicts of interests from developing, nor would such conditions prevent former officials from using their Commission contacts and insider know-how about the internal working processes to benefit their employers and clients. CEO considers that a full two-year cooling off period or ban on accepting such a post would be far more effective in preventing potential conflicts of interest.”
Avisa Partners has assured CEO that Mr Asbo has not and will not work on any cases that he has dealt with at the Commission. Avisa stresses that since March 2010 they have not been doing lobbying consultancy work for Sumitomo Chemicals, one of the companies that Mr Asbo was banned from working for, despite the fact that, at the time, Avisa Partners' declaration on the EU's Transparency Register listed Sumitomo Chemicals as a client. This information was removed from their entry in April 2012. Furthermore, Avisa states that they never worked for Sumitomo on a competition case, and never approached that company with a view to assisting them on a competition case, either before or after the arrival of Mr Asbo.
“Asbo has a profound understanding of all aspects relating to mergers and acquisitions, especially in the environmental, energy, chemicals and IT sectors, due to his experience within the Merger Network at DG Competition. In addition, he worked at DG Competition in antitrust and regulation in the telecoms and postal sectors”. Source: European Agenda
Avisa Partners describes itself accordingly: “Former senior EU Commission officials founded this bespoke public affairs consultancy in 2007. Providing deep and trusted knowledge of how to navigate the EU institutions, it comprises an eclectic and highly-skilled team of senior consultants and advisors.” Avisa also recruits their clients using the line “You're concerned a competitor or customer has or could complain to the Commission's DG Competition or DG Trade?”. Source: Information from AVISA's website http://www.avisa.eu/about_us
Update July 2015: Pablo Asbo now works at cabinetDN, one of Brussels' biggest lobby consultancies, as a "Director who specialises in Competition issues".