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Emilie Turunen

Former employer: 
European Parliament
Former function: 
Member of European parliament (for 5 years)
New function: 
Head of public affairs
New employer: 
Nykredit
Nationality: 
Denmark
Policy area: 
Date of Revolving Door: 
September, 2014
Institutional reaction: 

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

Other info: 

Turunen was elected as an MEP in 2009, initially for the Socialist People's Party with 37,300 personal votes, and she was soon elected Vice-President of the Green group in the European parliament.

She was a member of the internal market and consumer protection committee and made her name by speaking out on both lobbying and the role of the big banks following the financial crisis. During 2012-14, she was a substitute member of the economic and monetary affairs committee. During her 2009 election campaign, Turunen took a critical stance towards corporate lobbying in Brussels. She was one of many signatories to a series of pledges, written by the ALTER-EU coalition, ATTAC and others. The pledges included a call for a mandatory lobby register and for stronger rules on conflicts of interests of MEPs especially vis a vis their relations with lobbyists. Turunen also pledged to support systemic reform of the financial architecture plus improved financial transparency, tough action to tackle the worst excesses of hedge funds, and a financial transactions tax (the FTT, also known as the Robin Hood Tax).

Since then, Turunen made the struggle for strong and effective regulation of banks a cornerstone of her political profile in her home country, Denmark. She voiced strong opinions on the need to break-up the biggest banks and she specifically advocated that the biggest Danish bank, Danske Bank, be split in two. She has been supportive and outspoken on the FTT even when the Danish government (which included her own party at the time, the Socialist People's Party) turned its back on a Europe-wide tax. In 2012, Turunen staged her own campaign on financial regulation, consolidating her profile as an opponent of big finance and a proponent of stronger regulation.

On “systemically important financial institutions” (SIFI) she has remarked:

“The paradox is that banks do not necessarily become more resilient if they are too-big-to-fail, quite the contrary. They skim the cream and big bonuses are paid out to its executives. And should it go wrong, then taxpayers are requested to shoulder the bail-out.”

In March 2013, Turunen left the Green group in the European parliament and joined the Social Democrat group; in January this year she announced that she would leave politics at the election and finish a masters degree at the London School of Economics saying it could pave the way for a career in the private sector, remarking:

“I will get to know lots of people from the business community, and many people from the financial sector. It offers me a good chance to test what I can achieve in business.”

Despite this trail, many people were left astonished when in September 2014 it was announced that Turunen had joined Nykredit as head of public affairs. Nykredit is the largest mortgage lender in Denmark and also offers insurance, leasing, pension and estate agency services.

At the time of Turunen's appointment, Nykredit's communications director Trine Ahrenkiel told FinansWatch:

“Emilie has a very deep knowledge of the financial sector, and a knowledge of both Christiansborg and the EU system, and it's a combination that is hard to beat. That's why I look forward to working together."

In her new position it is highly likely that she will need to defend the views of Nykredit, which was recently declared a SIFI; this may well lead her to contradict what she advocated as a politician. Nykredit is firm in its opposition to even the meekest proposals to split big banks into investment and commercial branches of banks and to the FTT.

Turunen claims there is no contradiction between the work she did as an MEP and the work she will do with Nykredit. She has said:

“In the European Parliament I have also done cross-party work in order to strengthen Danish mortgage credit, so I don’t think there is a contradiction between the work I did in parliament and my new job at NyKredit.”

Turunen has also told CEO that “... I do not hold any political positions anymore.” Her short statement to us can be read here.

NyKredit has so far opted not to join the existing EU lobby transparency register despite there being many signs of its EU lobbying activity, including contributions to Commission consultations and participation in Commission expert groups.

The rules in the European Parliament

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.

Turunen declined to reply to CEO's question about whether she was accepting the transitional allowance which would amount to six months of her MEP salary (or approximately €36,000).

Turunen joins the list of ex-MEPs departing in 2014 who have recently accepted finance industry or lobby jobs. In May, Corien Wortmann-Kool (Netherlands, centre-right) joined the supervisory board of AEGON, the insurance multinational. In July, Arlene McCarthy (UK, centre-left) joined lobby firm Sovereign Strategy as deputy chair for European strategy. And in August, Sharon Bowles, the former chair of the economic and monetary affairs committee, joined the board of the London Stock Exchange Group as a non-executive director.

Comment from CEO: 

"It's hugely disappointing when an MEP such as Emilie Turunen who had previously campaigned for tough regulation of the banks and lobby transparency goes to work for a big bank which has not joined the EU lobby register. More generally, this and other recent cases of MEPs going through the revolving door to finance or lobby jobs illustrates just how urgently the European parliament should introduce new rules to regulate the risk of conflicts of interest from such moves.”

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