Corporate Europe Observatory

Exposing the power of corporate lobbying in the EU

RevolvingDoorWatch

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Corien Wortmann-Kool

Former employer: 
European parliament
Former function: 
Member of European parliament (for 10 years)
New function: 
Supervisory board member
New employer: 
Aegon NV + ABP
Nationality: 
Netherlands
Policy area: 
Date of Revolving Door: 
May, 2014
Institutional reaction: 

None. There is no regulation requiring former MEPs to seek authorisation for their subsequent professional activities.

Other info: 

Aegon is a major Dutch multinational working in the areas of life insurance, pensions and asset management.

Wortmann-Kool is a member of the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) and was vice-chairman of the EPP's group for financial, economic and environmental affairs. She was also a member of the European parliament's economic and monetary affairs committee where she has produced several reports on issues of interest to the financial industry. In 2012 she was elected as a vice-president of the EPP group for three years.

According to the papers prepared for the Aegon AGM on 21 May 2014 where the appointment of Wortmann-Kool approved by shareholders, she is

“involved in and has extensive knowledge of the financial sector legislation, such as Solvency II. Furthermore, she has extensive knowledge of financial supervision in Europe, financial markets legislation, EU/Eurozone economic governance and competition policy, also as a member of the cross-party parliamentary committee on economic and monetary affairs.”

Aegon also says that Wortmann-Kool has been nominated to the board specifically because of her

“her broad experience with political, governmental and social, organizations, in particular as a member of the European Parliament. The combination of financial legislation knowledge and political experience provides added value to the Board.”

On her appointment she said:

“I look forward to helping Aegon achieve a sustainable, innovative and profitable business strategy that earns the trust of both customers and society. I trust my national and international experience in politics and public administration – including extensive work in Europe – and my knowledge of diverse stakeholder interests will support Aegon in meeting the challenges of a changing environment”.

Wortmann-Kool and AEGON already share a deep interest in the Solvency II legislation. Solvency II comprises prudential rules for insurance companies and it was revised in a process which ended in 2013. Aegon has said:

“Solvency II will strengthen Europe's insurance industry by creating an environment that encourages sound risk management based on economic principles … [it] will bring benefits to all the industry's stakeholders, particularly to its many millions of customers and policyholders. With this new proposed directive, Solvency II will also allow insurance companies to manage their capital more efficiently."

Yet Sven Giegold MEP (Greens) has said of Solvency II:

“Years of intensive lobbying have paid off for the insurance companies of the largest member states. The industry achieved to lower prudential capital requirements and hence increase profits for long term insurance products … I will personally make sure that all companies making use of the agreed privileges will be named and shamed on a website including their brands and the billions of missing capital.”

Both Giegold and Wortmann-Kool sat on the economic and monetary affairs committee (2009-14) which scrutinised the Solvency II proposals. Wortmann-Kool spoke extensively about Solvency II in an interview with an insurance industry magazine in November 2011.

Aegon is not registered in the EU's lobby transparency register. Yet Aegon appears to play a significant role in the Pan European Insurance Forum which is registered; Aegon's senior vice president for public policy and regulatory affairs is PEIF's main contact point. PEIF was one of several insurance bodies to lobby decision-makers on Solvency II. In April 2014, CEO published an extensive report on the strength of the financial lobby in Brussels.

Wortmann-Kool is no stranger to the boards of corporations. As an MEP she had recently declared that she is a member of the supervisory board of Het Kadaster and of Mercedes-Benz Netherlands.

Ms Wortmann-Kool was contacted in advance of publication of this article, but no response was received.

Update: December 2014

In December 2014, the Dutch civil service pension fund ABP announced that Wortmann-Kool would be its new board chairman from January 2015. ABP is one of the largest pension funds in the world and has 2.8 million beneficiaries in the Dutch government, public and education sectors.

“She has great knowledge of the financial sector, is an experienced and powerful driver and also has a large network in Brussels and The Hague. ABP is an ideal combination of knowledge and experience”

said ABP vice-president José Meijer, welcoming her move. Meijer has told the Dutch media that ABP had considered he existing position with AEGON carefully but did not see a conflict of interest.

Wortmann-Kool herself said:

“I want my knowledge of the financial sector and all my experience to contribute to a good cause. These are the interests of the ABP participants.”
 

Update: 6 July 2016

A recent article by TabakNee looks at the investments of ABP in the tobacco industry and asks how compatible that is with Wortmann-Kool's other role, as chair of Save the Children Netherlands. The investments in tobacco are defended as "needed for the performance of ABP".

The rules in the European Parliament

The current revolving door rules for MEPs are so weak as to be virtually non-existent.

The code of conduct for MEPs (approved in 2011) states that

“Former Members of the European Parliament who engage in professional lobbying or representational activities directly linked to the European Union decision-making process may not, throughout the period in which they engage in those activities, benefit from the facilities granted to former Members under the rules laid down by the Bureau to that effect”.

However, there is no process to monitor or enforce this part of the code and ensure that former MEPs do not use their lifelong access pass for lobbying purposes.

When MEPs leave the European parliament they are entitled to a transitional allowance equivalent to one month's salary for every year they have been an MEP, with a minimum pay-out of six months' salary and a maximum of 24 months.

Comment from CEO: 

"This case shows why it is imperative that the new European parliament reforms the code of conduct for MEPs to introduce rules to regulate the revolving door. Wortmann-Kool and Aegon have made no secret of the fact that her nomination to the board was because of her parliamentary experience, and several recent dossiers such as Solvency II (worked on by the committee upon which Wortmann-Kool sat) have been of great interest to insurance companies like Aegon. New rules should be put in place to guarantee that MEPs do not use their previous experience, contacts and insider know-how to benefit private interests."

 
 

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