McCreevy quit over 'privileged' position

 

FORMER EU commissioner Charlie McCreevy was told he could not remain a director of a fledgling British bank because he holds “privileged information” on the financial sector, a spokesman for the European Commission said.

In its first public comment since Mr McCreevy resigned his place on the board of NBNK Investments on Wednesday night, the commission revealed that an ad-hoc ethics committee had issued a “negative opinion” in relation to his directorship as early as August 24th.

The spokesman said, however, that such opinions were not binding on the EU executive and that several discussions took place before the commission reached its conclusion. At issue was Mr McCreevy’s responsibility for financial regulation during his years as internal markets commissioner, he added.

“The ad-hoc committee signalled a direct link with the portfolio of the former commissioner, privileged information to which he has had access in his mandate, the risk of conflicts of interest and the risks of compromising his obligation of discretion.”

Asked if there was any period after which it could be deemed appropriate for a former internal markets commission to join the board of a financial institution, the spokesman said commissioners make a “lifetime commitment” after they join the EU executive to observe the treaties.

Under the treaty clause in question, commissioners are obliged when taking office to give a solemn undertaking to “behave with integrity and discretion as regards the acceptance, after they have ceased to hold office, of certain appointments or benefits”.

This is first time that a former member of the EU executive has had to resign a directorship since it introduced the current system for overseeing the work of retired commissioners in 2003.

NBNK Investments was set up during the summer by former Lloyds chairman Lord Levine to pursue acquisition opportunities in the British banking sector. As institutions seek to recover from the financial crash, some large players are selling assets to comply with EU competition rulings. “The company intends to focus on the acquisition of a large, established, high-quality banking business to be funded by further substantial fundraisings,” says an investment prospectus.

Labour MEP Nessa Childers has called for a review of code of conduct governing post-EU employment of commissioners, saying it dates to 1967. “The code needs to act more as a brake on the future activities of former commissioners and not merely a set of guidelines routinely interpreted to ensure the best deal possible for former senior figures,” she said.