Phil Hogan faces restrictions on lobbying as he begins consulting career

Former commissioner cannot advise clients on trade or agriculture until August 2022

Former EU commissioner Phil Hogan will have mobile phone group Vodafone as his first client. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw for The Irish Times

Former EU commissioner Phil Hogan will have mobile phone group Vodafone as his first client. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw for The Irish Times

 

Brussels has placed strict limits on former EU commissioner Phil Hogan as he embarks on a career in business consulting, saying he cannot lobby the European Commission or advise clients on trade or agriculture until the second anniversary of his resignation.

Mr Hogan was forced to stand down as trade commissioner last August amid a political furore over public health breaches at the “golfgate” dinner he attended in Co Galway and questions over his travel to and from the controversial Oireachtas golf society event. The former Fine Gael minister was previously agriculture commissioner.

The commission gave him the go-ahead on Tuesday to establish a consultancy – Hogan, Strategic Advisory Company – but he must inform Brussels of his clients and contracts every six months until August 2022.

“Today’s decision of the commission allows me to go ahead immediately,” Mr Hogan told The Irish Times. “I’ll be providing advice of a strategic nature to people at the high level of companies. I won’t be lobbying.”

Ethical committee

The commission’s move comes on foot of reports by an independent ethical committee into Mr Hogan’s proposed work for two companies.

He will have mobile phone group Vodafone as his first client. He will also advise Proof of Trust, a financial technology group that works on digital contracts.

His business will be established in Ireland but it will operate from Brussels, where Mr Hogan now lives. He will be the sole shareholder.

Mr Hogan had nothing to say on Tuesday about the circumstances of his resignation, which followed pressure from the Government over breaches of coronavirus travel rules on his visit to Ireland.

“I’m not going to get into the history lesson of who did what and when,” he said. “I took a bit of time out after 38 years of public service.”

Former commission figures have run into trouble in the past when taking on business roles. José Manuel Barroso, a two-term commission president, lost “red carpet privileges” when taking on a top role with Goldman Sachs in 2016. In 2010 former Irish commissioner Charlie McCreevy resigned from a British banking venture after an EU ethics committee found a conflict of interest with his work as commissioner in charge of financial regulation.

In a formal decision on Tuesday, Brussels said Mr Hogan “shall not lobby the commission, its members or staff, or any of its executive agencies on any matter on behalf of Hogan, Strategic Advisory Company or any of its clients” until August 26th, 2022.

‘Refrain from contacting’

He was told to “refrain from contacting, for his clients, the services previously under his portfolio, namely the directorate-general for agriculture and rural development and the directorate-general for trade” in that period.

The commission also said Mr Hogan “shall not accept mandates which concern areas in which he has obtained confidential or sensitive information or insights during his term of office and for which this information or these insights are essential to provide appropriate advice”.

In addition, it said he “shall not accept mandates from clients, or provide advice to clients, in relation to areas for which he was responsible, namely agriculture and rural development and international trade, or provide services to clients in relation to other areas if these clients were major stakeholders in his former areas of portfolio responsibilities”.