Sunday

20th Sep 2020

Banks declare massive increase in EU lobbying

  • Are some hikes due to under-reporting? (Photo: Gyver Chang)

Banks and internet giant Google are among firms to declare huge increases in spending on EU lobbying as tougher transparency rules enter into life.

JP Morgan Chase says its lobbying costs in Brussels went up from €50,000 in 2013 to between €1,250,000 and €1,499,999 in 2014 - a 30-fold increase.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Goldman Sachs' figures rose from €50,000 to between €700,000 and €799,999 in the same period - a 14-fold hike.

UBS climbed from between €200,000 and €250,000 to €1.7 million - a seven-fold increase.

Costs for Barclays, HSBC and Royal Bank of Scotland more than tripled, while costs for Banco Santander, BNP Paribas, Deutsche Bank, Danske Bank, and Raifeissen doubled.

Financial sector trade associations also posted huge hikes, including: the European Fund and Asset Management Association; International Swaps and Derivatives Association; European Private Equity and Venture Capital Association; and the Federation Banquaire Francaise.

The increases were posted in the European Commission’s transparency register in the run-up to Monday’s (27 April) deadline on more stringent reporting requirements.

The register is voluntary, but, from last year, firms which stay out are blocked from meeting with EU commissioners or staff in their cabinets.

At the same time, commissioners and senior staff must, since January, publish details of meetings with interest groups, making it harder for non-registrants to slip under the radar.

Banks weren’t the only companies to post significant hikes.

Internet giant Google says it spent up to €4 million last year compared to €1.5 million in 2013.

Energy firm BP and furniture outlet Ikea doubled spending to €3 million and €900,000, respectively. Sony Europe said spending went from €50,000 to €600,000. Ebay’s figures climbed from €100,000 to €500,000.

Compliance remains patchy, however.

The commission said all firms which miss Monday’s deadline will be struck off the register.

Prior to the deadline it had 8,503 registrants. But on Wednesday the figure dropped to 6,912, meaning almost 1,600 companies have come off.

The commission has now offered a grace period of two weeks to file data to get back on.

Entities no longer on the list include: GDF Suez; Lloyds Banking Group; G4S; Bank of America; and the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association.

Several firms posted figures dating to 2013 instead of 2014 by way of compliance on giving “latest available” data.

Others posted figures which make little sense, some, most likely, because they hit the wrong key on their computer.

US and Chinese engineering giants GE and Huawei claimed they couldn’t find 2014 information and posted 2013 figures only.

IT firm Microelectronica, pharmaceuticals company Pfizer, and energy firms SNC Lavalin and Socar, among others, posted figures of more than €1 million for the previous reporting period, but suddenly declared less than €10,000.

For its part, Corporate Europe Observatory, a Brussels-based pro-transparency NGO, noted it's normal that banking costs went up due to the high amount of post-crisis EU financial regulation.

But they said Goldman Sachs' initial declaration of just €50,000, for one, looks like deliberate “under-reporting”.

The NGO’s Erik Wesselius told EUobserver that some anomalies arose because “it's still very easy to make factor 10 or even factor 1,000 mistakes in declaring lobby costs” due to the register’s templates.

The banking firms under scrutiny and commission officials responsible for the register couldn’t be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Lobbying firms

In terms of dedicated lobbying firms, the new declarations say Fleishman-Hillard (€6.5mn) is the largest in the EU capital.

The next biggest is Hill & Knowlton (€5mn), followed by G Plus (€3.25mn), Cabinet DN (€3mn), Weber Shandwick (€2.75mn), Grayling (€2.5mn), Rohde (€2.25mn), FTI Consulting (€2mn), Fipra International (€2mn), and Brunswick (€1.25mn),

But consultancies’ declarations also contain anomalies.

Some of the largest - Burson-Marsteller, Apco, Kreab Gavin Anderson, Hume Brophy, and Edelman - which posted multi-million figures in previous periods all filed less than €10,000 each.

Fleishman-Hillard’s spending was €6.5 million last year, down from €11.5 million in 2013.

Tobacco

With bank figures on the up, tobacco declarations are down, after the EU wrapped up work on recent legislation in early 2014.

Philip Morris, for instance, filed €1.5 million for last year compared to €5.2 million the year before.

The sector is far from quiet, however. Total spending by Philip Morris, Japan Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco, and Swedish Match was €2.8 million last year.

A trade body, the European Smoking Tobacco Association, declared a further €0.5 million.

Analysis

The State of the Union speech - digested

The 61-year old former German defence minister, who only narrowly won the backing of MEPs last year, outlined not a vision, but an ambitious list of policies to tackle - including more health care competencies to the EU.

EU regions: pandemic should force decision-making rethink

EU regions say the upcoming Conference on the Future of Europe is a "timely opportunity" to debate how to make local and regional authorities full- involved in the EU response to Covid-19 - even including possible EU treaty changes.

Exclusive

Far-right MEP resigns from EU Endowment for Democracy

French far-right MEP Thierry Mariani said he is resigning as a board member of the European Endowment for Democracy. His replacement may be Jerome Riviere - another far-right French MEP from the Identity and Democracy group.

News in Brief

  1. Belarus president puts army on EU borders
  2. US: Lebanese group hoarding explosives in EU states
  3. Russia loses EU sanctions appeal
  4. UK guidelines explain Brexit treaty-violation plan
  5. Over 10,000 corona cases a day in France
  6. Greek police move Moria refugees following fire
  7. WHO warns Europe not to cut 14-day quarantine period
  8. MEPs urge EU Council to 'finally' protect rights in Poland

Opinion

Why so few women in EU missions?

Angela Merkel is only the seventh woman to chair the Council of the European Union's meetings. And in 2020 there is no woman leading any of the current 11 European civilian missions (let alone the six military operations).

Commission chief under fire for Croatia campaign video

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen recorded a video in support of Croatia's ruling party, which the EU executive said was in her "personal capacity" - and admits it was a "mistake" that this was not made clear.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  3. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID-19 halts the 72nd Session of the Nordic Council in Iceland
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCivil society a key player in integration
  6. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular

Latest News

  1. Commissioner: No one will like new EU migration pact
  2. Buying an EU passport 'no use for evading sanctions'
  3. MEPs call for first-ever EU law on Romani inclusion
  4. EU to help draft Libya's strategy on border security
  5. Spain to recognise Kosovo if it gets Serbia deal
  6. Ylva Johansson on Migration and Drama Queens
  7. Does Erdoğan's long arm now reach Belgian universities?
  8. Biden threatens UK trade deal over Brexit shambles

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  2. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  4. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis
  6. UNESDACircularity works, let’s all give it a chance

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us