The Commission approved McCreevy’s role at Ryanair. He was restricted from advising Ryanair on cases about Ryanair that he had been consulted on whilst in office, but was left free to advise Ryanair, or lobby the Commission, on any other issue or case.
On the advice of the ad hoc ethical committee (and after significant controversy had arisen over the case, including critical media coverage and NGO complaints), the Commission threatened to not approve McCreevy’s plan to join the board of NBNK Investments plc. This forced McCreevy to withdraw his request.
The former Irish finance minister Charlie McCreevy was internal market commissioner (2004-10) during a period of intense liberalisation in the financial sector and he should carry some of the blame for the vulnerable financial system which led to the financial bubble, its collapse and the ongoing economic crisis. The links between his former portfolio and his proposed role at NBNK investments (a new bank that aimed to purchase banking assets on sale in the aftermath of the financial crisis) were so stark that it prompted the Commission to threaten to issue a negative view (which had not happened before, or since) for the role. Ultimately, McCreevy withdrew his request, but only after trying to negotiate his way around the Commission’s concerns by delaying the date that his directorship would effectively start. However, the Commission rejected this option.
Notwithstanding this, the Commission did give McCreevy permission to take a position with low-price airline Ryanair, despite the fact that McCreevy regularly dealt with issues relating to Ryanair during his time as commissioner (including on the issue of state aid). Ryanair’s appointment letter to McCreevy showed he would be paid an additional fee for “specific advice to be provided to the Board and Management on European Commission and Government relations including up to two annual visits with Senior Management to Brussels for meetings with the European Commission”. It is clear that Ryanair expected McCreevy to assist with lobbying and providing lobbying advice. McCreevy remains a Ryanair board member.
Within weeks of the 12 month notification period ending (during which time he was obliged to inform the Commission about any new roles), McCreevy, who was responsible for (de-)regulating derivatives markets whilst commissioner, joined the derivatives trading unit of global investments company BNY Mellon. No Commission approval was sought, or required, under the (then) code of conduct rules. McCreevy, along with nine other directors, left BNY Mellon in October 2012.
In 2011, McCreevy joined the board of Sentenial Ltd as a non-executive director. Sentenial offers SEPA (Single Euro Payments Area) technology to banks and other companies. Its website says: “Former European Union Commissioner Mr. Charlie McCreevy joined Sentenial'’s board of directors in 2011. As European Commissioner for the Internal Market and Services between 2004-2010, Mr McCreevy played a pivotal role driving the SEPA regulation project through its formative years while setting the foundations for the current and final phase of the implementations of the SEPA regulation … Mr. McCreevy’s in-depth knowledge of the European banking and the regulatory environment considerably strengthens Sentenial’s board.”
He also holds non-executive directorships at: World Spreads (a Dublin-based financial market trading company), Sports Direct International, Celsius Funds plc (an investment fund incorporated in Ireland), Grove Limited and Barchester Holdco (Jersey) Limited.
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 form 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.
Charlie McCreevy was contacted in advance of publication of this article, but no response was received.
Update 6 August 2015: According to the Irish Examiner, "Former minister for finance Charlie McCreevy and former secretary general at the Department of Transport Julie O’Neill both serve on the Ryanairboard and each received €50,000 last year ... Mr McCreevy - who already receives a lucrative Ministerial pension - was one of eight non-executive board directors to each receive 30,000 share options last year worth €87,500 and are exercisable between June 2019 and July 2022."
For more information see: Revolving door provides privileged access
“The Commission was forced to take action to prevent McCreevy from joining NBNK Investments because of the very obvious risk of conflicts of interest that the new role presented. However, his move to Ryanair also required action and the limited restriction imposed upon his role would not prevent the risk of conflicts of interest from arising. McCreevy has also been able to move to BNY Mellon, Sentenial, World Spreads and Celsius without needing any Commission approval; it is clear to CEO that even an 18-month notification period for commissioners is not long enough. CEO considers that commissioners should have a three year cooling-off period for jobs involving lobbying, lobbying advice or where the risk of conflicts of interest are high. After all, ex-Commissioners are entitled to a generous transitional allowance for the same period, three years.”