European ombudsman queries Mario Draghi role in ‘group of 30’

Emily O’Reilly questions public interest benefit of ECB head in consultative group

Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank: his membership of the elite group of 30  “raises serious questions about the transparency of the ECB’s activities”,  says European Parliament member Brian Hayes.  Photograph: Peti Kollanyi/Bloomberg

Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank: his membership of the elite group of 30 “raises serious questions about the transparency of the ECB’s activities”, says European Parliament member Brian Hayes. Photograph: Peti Kollanyi/Bloomberg

 

The European ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly, is investigating the involvement of European Central Bank (ECB) president Mario Draghi in a group known as the “group of 30”.

In a letter sent to the ECB president and seen by The Irish Times, Ms O’Reilly advised that concern about banking regulation and supervision was widespread throughout much of the last decade on the back of the financial crisis.

“In some jurisdictions this led to concerns that regulators and supervisors may have been unduly influenced by the private institutions under their regulation and supervision,” she wrote.

“Since the crisis, the ECB has been charged with banking supervision tasks of critical importance to all Europeans. The ECB has high standards of independence, transparency and integrity and in that context, I am sure you will agree the ECB must continue to uphold these highest standards.”

The group of 30 describes itself as a consultative group on economic and monetary affairs. Aside from Mr Draghi, members of the grouping comprise high-level banking executives from around the world including: JP Morgan Chase chairman Jacob Frenkel; Jean-Claude Trichet, former ECB president; Bank of England governor Mark Carney; UBS chairman Axel Weber; and Credit Suisse chief executive Tidjane Thiam.

Elite grouping

European Parliament member Brian Hayes said that Mr Draghi’s membership of the elite grouping “raises serious questions about the transparency of the ECB’s activities”.

“While the ECB needs sufficient independence to carry out its activities, I would have questions about whether it is right that the ECB president engages in ‘behind closed doors’ meetings with a select number of banks which the ECB and SSM [single supervisory mechanism] directly supervise,” he added.

Calling for Mr Draghi to end his relationship with the group, Mr Hayes said: “EU institutions should be careful not to give a privileged platform to certain private companies.”

In her letter to the ECB president, Ms O’Reilly suggests the relationship the Central Bank has with the group is “of an institutional nature” on the basis that on one occasion when Mr Draghi couldn’t attend a meeting, the vice-president of the ECB was invited.

Among Ms O’Reilly’s 16 questions to Mr Draghi, she asked the ECB to provide evidence that there was a public interest benefit to Mr Draghi’s membership of the group, how the group was financed, and how the membership was decided.

Ms O’Reilly requested a response from Mr Draghi by the end of September to the case originally opened in January after a complaint from a “Mr Keneth Harr, acting on behalf of an NGO”.