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Jörgen Holmquist

Former employer: 
DG Internal Market and Services (MARKT)
Former function: 
Director General DG MARKT
New function: 
“Senior advisory role” in financial services practice
New employer: 
Interel
Nationality: 
Sweden
Policy area: 
Date of Revolving Door: 
October, 2012
Institutional reaction: 

Approved, with no formal restrictions imposed. Jörgen Holmquist was EU Commission Director General of DG Internal Market and Services (DG MARKT) January 2007 until June 2010. From September 2011 to May 2012 he was Advisor Hors Classe and Member the European Commission Task Force for Greece, finally retiring from the Commission in June 2012. Four months later he started as an advisor at Brussels lobby consultancy Interel's financial services practice, in October 2012. Despite being one of the highest-level financial policy makers, requesting to move to become an advisor in the financial services department of a Brussels lobby consultancy, his move was granted by the Commission, with no restrictions imposed other than referring to the activities that Holmquist himself stated he would not be involved in.

Other info: 

As MARKT Director General, Holmquist had the highest level of responsibility for developing the EU's regulatory response to the financial crisis. This included “preparation of the EU Roadmaps and Legislative program to deal with the financial crisis and specifically the restructuring of the regulatory/supervisory system, new legislation concerning bank capital, derivatives, credit-rating agencies, investment funds and many other related areas. He was a member of the EU Economic and Financial Committee and chaired the European Corporate Governance Forum. He represented the European Commission in the Financial Stability Board (FSB) and in bilateral contacts with the US, Brazil, China, India, Japan and Russia. During this period he was also responsible for the EU Single Market, particularly the free movement of services, capital and labour.”

In a their press release announcing Holmquist's appointment, Interel gloated that “Jörgen's national government and Commission experience, particularly in financial services, will offer our clients an unrivalled level of insight and expertise.”

After he finished at DG MARKT, Holmquist was appointed as a member of the European Commission Task Force for Greece in July 2011, and was “an Adviser Hors Classe” until 31 May 2012. The Task Force is responsible for guiding the implementation of austerity measures and structural reforms in Greece.

Although he started at a lobby consultancy just four months after finishing work for the Commission, Holmquist broke no rules in his trip through the revolving door. His application for permission from the Commission to work at Interel was on time, and he stated explicitly that he “will not:

- do any lobbying of or information gathering from European institutions on behalf of clients;
- provide advice on issues under litigation or pre-litigation with the Commission or on Commission proposals which I was involved in as a Commission official;
- be involved in issues concerning Greece."

Based on this comment, the different Commission departments that reviewed his application all gave the go ahead for his move, without imposing any official restrictions (such as a ban on meeting his former staff, advising on the same dossiers or areas he previously worked on, or for clients that he previously worked with in an official capacity).

Given all the areas he was in charge of, it is remarkable that just two years after being Director General of DG MARKT and four months after ceasing work for the the Commission, it was deemed appropriate for Holmquist to work for a multi-million euro Brussels lobby firm, paid by its clients to lobby the EU on behalf of their private, profit-motivated, interests in influencing economic and financial affairs.

Furthermore, although Holmquist stated that he would not “be involved in issues concerning Greece”, his recent role in the Task Force for Greece widens the scope for potential conflicts of interest. From adviser on how to best sell off Greece's public services as part of an EU imposed, but intensely unpopular with the Greek demos, 'structural adjustment' package, to advisor for private sector interests on financial services.

Jörgen Holmquist died in March 2014.

Other sources:

Commission released documents re. the implementation of Staff Regulations Art. 16 in the case of Jörgen Holmquist, see http://www.asktheeu.org/en/request/staff_regulations_article_16_jrg
Email correspondence between CEO and Mr Holmquist, January 2013

Websites accessed January 2013

Comment from CEO: 

“This case shows that the highest-level and most powerful Commission official - besides Commissioner Barnier himself - responsible for new banking regulation following the financial crisis, had no restrictions imposed on his new work advising private clients on financial services for a multi-million euro Brussels lobby firm. Although Holmquist's is an advisory role, and he won't be undertaking any direct lobbying, CEO considers that offering Interel clients "an unrivalled level of insight and expertise" in EU financial policy is a clear part of the preparatory process of interest representation – what the Commission calls lobbying. According to their definition, this includes indirect activities, as well as preparing materials, events or contacts. We would interpret this to include the advisory phase of such preparation (e.g. regarding who to target, on what area, with which emphasis, etc). CEO believes that in order to avoid the risk, perception or actuality of conflicts of interest at such high-levels of decision-making, like a former Commission Director-General, an automatic two-year cooling off period on all lobby consultancy and advisory jobs, particularly in the same field, followed by a further two-year notification period, in which potential conflicts of interest are rigorously assessed, and appropriate restrictions imposed, would be appropriate.”

 

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