Sunday

17th Nov 2019

Ex-industry-commissioner takes job with RBS

  • Mr Verheugen has taken up a senior position with the controversial British bank (Photo: duncan)

Former European industry commissioner Guenter Verhuegen has taken a job with the UK's Royal Bank of Scotland.

The bank announced on Wednesday that the former EU official would be joining the firm as "senior advisor and vice chairman of Global Banking and Markets in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA)."

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In his first term as a member of the commission from 1999 to 2004, the German Social Democrat was in charge of EU enlargement then from 2004 to 2010, as a vice-president of the EU executive, he was responsible for the enterprise and the industry with the objective of increasing the competitiveness of European industry.

Welcoming him aboard the RBS team, executive Ingrid Hengster said in a statement that the firm was particularly pleased with his wealth of political contacts.

"Professor Verheugen is known as a great supporter of the European idea and has made himself, not least in the European industrial policy a name," she said. "His experience in European politics and its national and international contacts are very valuable for RBS."

"We are delighted that Professor Verheugen's future as a senior advisor to us. This shows once again how important the German and European market for the RBS."

European Commission spokesman Michael Mann told EUobserver that they were not aware that Mr Verheugen had given prior notice of the appointment to Brussels, as all ex-commissioners must do before taking up commercial posts once leaving office.

"We are currently checking. If this appointment is confirmed, we will perform the usual process to check to see if there was any overlap with what he was responsible for in his previous role," he said.

"If so, the matter will be sent to the ethics committee to assess whether there are any problems."

The announcement comes on the same day that it was revealed that former Irish commissioner Charlie McCreevy was to take up a position with low-cost airline Ryanair and a few months after Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the most recent external relations commissioner, took up a post with re-insurance giant Munich Re.

Lobbying transparency campaigners were critical of the move, saying that officials are hired - in what they refer to as 'revolving doors' cases - as much for their contacts as for their influence in a particular policy area.

"We have serious doubts about how the commission is handling these cases," said Erik Wesselius of Corporate Europe Observatory, "about the lack of transparency in how the commission is evaluating job moves."

He added that the choice of new employer was surprising given the opprobrium heaped upon the bank. Until the crisis, RBS was the largest firm in the world in terms of assets. As a result of the economic crisis however, the bank reported a 2008 loss of £24.1bn, the largest annual loss in UK corporate history and was later effectively nationalised. RBS has received heavy criticism for the bonuses handed out to executives.

Former chief executive Fred Goodwin notoriously left the bank with a £703,000 pension.

Mr Wesselius said: "Someone who has had such a job in the European Commission should not be allowed to move this bank, especially in consideration of its controversial activities in the context of the financial crisis."

RBS spokespeople refused to reveal how much Mr Verheugen would be earning in his new role.

Asked if there was anything about Mr Verheugen's EU job that made the bank seek out the ex-commissioner, RBS spokeswoman Aofe Reynolds said: "It is impossible for me to comment on his previous role."

"Certainly he has a European profile that will help us grow our business."

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