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Tobias McKenney

Former employer: 
European Commission, DG Internal Market
Former function: 
Policy advisor - copyright unit
New function: 
European intellectual property manager
New employer: 
Google
Policy area: 
Date of Revolving Door: 
June, 2012
Institutional reaction: 

In September 2014, the Commission told CEO that it had no record of any authorisation request from Tobias McKenney to join Google.

The Secretary General of the Commission Catherine Day further told CEO in November 2014 that “I can inform you that Article 16 of the Staff Regulations indeed applies to Mr MCKENNEY. The Commission is currently looking into the matter in order to ascertain whether the rules have been fully complied with in this particular case. This procedure is still ongoing and we are therefore unable to provide any further comments at this point in time.”

Update 2 November 2015: In July 2015, CEO was sent a very short letter by Ms Day which said that the above procedure “has been closed without follow-up” and that “It was found that the person concerned had taken the appropriate steps to inform his service of his intentions to engage in the activity in question, and no objections were raised”. In September 2015, CEO was again told that there were no Commission documents relating to McKenney "informing the Commission about his intention to work for Google and the Commission's authorisation of this". 
 

Other info: 

According to information from the Commission, Tobias McKenney was a policy officer in the field of copyright in DG Internal Market from 2009 to 2011. He then held a post of administrative coordination assistant in the area of single market law and relations with the European Parliament in the same DG. McKenney's linked-in profile says that he was a policy advisor in the copyright unit of the Commission from March 2007 to March 2012. His linked-in profile also says that since June 2012, McKenney has been European IP (intellectual property) manager for Google.

In fact, since August 2014, McKenney has been one of six registered European Parliament lobbyists for Google in the EU lobby register (viewed 1 July 2015). Most MEPs are not transparent about the lobbyists that they meet but we do know that McKenney met with Amelia Andersdotter MEP and Emma McClarkin MEP in 2013.

An assistant of an MEP who is close to issues of interest to Google told CEO that the company's lobbying operations are:

“low-key, lobbying indirectly through business coalitions rather than openly as Google. I am sure they know very well that Google is not very popular anymore among EU policymakers … They are also pretty clever on establishing personal relations through events like "MEPs can test the new Google Glass", or "Google@6", in informal evening event for EP assistants with free beers, snacks, table-soccer, Guitar Hero and other fun things. They did the latter once a month a while ago ... Hard to say how successful this all is, of course, but at the very least if helps them to be heard.”

This seems a new 'good cop' approach to lobbying, at least in comparison to the past. Politico recently reported on Google's apparent 'bad cop' approach to lobbying, reporting: “More than a dozen members of Parliament, regulators and tech companies interviewed by POLITICO recalled past meetings with the company’s European arm in which they felt belittled and their opinions brushed aside.”  

Google is investing heavily in lobbying influence. In 2014, Google declared €3,500,000-€3,749,000 on EU lobbying, up substantially from its €1,250,000-€1,500,000 lobby expenditure in 2013 as recorded in LobbyFacts. In fact, Google now ranks as the sixth highest EU-lobby spending company, according to LobbyFacts. Integritywatch.eu reports that Google has had at least 26 lobby meetings with the top echelons of the Commission since November 2014, second only to BusinessEurope. This is perhaps not surprising; Google has several pressing issues with the European Commission including accusations that it abuses its dominant position in general internet searches, an investigation into Google’s mobile operating system, and the proposed EU data protection regulation. In the US, according to Opensecrets.org, Google spent $16,830,000 on lobbying in 2014.

Google and TTIP

Google's EU lobby register entry does not specifically list TTIP under dossiers worked on, although it is clear that Google is actively lobbying the Commission on TTIP. Trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström and her Cabinet and her Cabinet member Jon Nyman had a meeting with David Drummond (Chief legal officer) which included TTIP at Davos on 23 January 2015. According to the meeting notes:

“Mr Drummond offered Google's support on TTIP, both as regards contacts with the US Government and other stakeholders. He enquired about progress in EU's negotiations with e.g. Vietnam and China in opening up data flows”.

It seems that Malmström actively encouraged Google to “reassure” MEPs about the TTIP negotiations, perhaps via organising an event. The meeting notes report that:

“As regards the TTIP, the negotiations on data had not really started yet given post-NSA concerns, and it would be good if Google and others could reassure stakeholders, e.g. through a seminar in the EP”.

DG Trade's director-general Jean-Luc Demarty has also met with Google on TTIP via a wider meeting with the lobby group AMISA on 26 February 2014 which brought together various industry representatives. The information in the released document has been redacted, including who specifically attended to represent Google, but it is clear that the issue of intellectual property rights and enforcement under TTIP was raised. Google has also had at least one lobby meeting with DG Trade.

We contacted Tobias McKenney before finalising this profile, but he did not reply to our questions.

CEO's report on revolving door cases related to TTIP can be found here.

Comment from CEO: 

“It is not clear to what extent McKenney works on TTIP issues for Google; he did not reply to the questions we put to him. Importantly he also did not reply to questions about his departure from the Commission. The Commission also has some very important questions to answer about this case, including: why, despite several requests, does the Commission say it does not hold any documents about this revolving door case? This case relates to one of Brussels' biggest lobbying companies and the Commission's approach and lack of transparency is shocking."

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