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Hollande Heeds Napoleon Hiring Bank of America Critic

Napoleon Bonaparte
Napoleon Bonaparte declared that “the people to fear are not those who disagree with you, but those who disagree with you and are too cowardly to let you know.” Source: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

It was Napoleon Bonaparte who declared that “the people to fear are not those who disagree with you, but those who disagree with you and are too cowardly to let you know.”

If he shares the former emperor’s view, Francois Hollande has little to fear from Laurence Boone, 45, his new adviser on economic and financial matters.

With a mix of criticism, skepticism and pessimism, Boone has let France’s second Socialist president know just what she thinks from her vantage point as head of developed European economics at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

“A disastrous economic record,” was how she began a May 26 column in L’Opinion, a weekly magazine. She cited a “total absence of economic policy.”

Boone, a former chief French economist at Barclays Plc and a onetime researcher at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, was named to the post yesterday, two weeks after Hollande’s party finished third in European parliamentary elections. She didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking an interview.

The vote results, Boone wrote in a May 30 report, “mostly reflect national discontent with the political establishment” as jobless claims exceed 3 million.

Educated at University of Paris-X Nanterre, London Business School and Reading University, the economist wasn’t hopeful of change. Hollande “refuses to engage in disagreements,” Boone said. She rejected the likelihood he will enact policies to spur competitiveness. She also dismissed the chance of tax cuts given European limits on budgets.

‘No Change’

That left her predicting “no change the most likely option” for what happens next in France. “This means small reforms, but rising popular discontent, as growth remains sluggish and unemployment fails to decrease,” she said.

Boone has spoken other truths to power. In April, she advised French lawmakers not to waste their time lobbying the European Central Bank to ease monetary policy; she predicted France would need to tighten its budget more than it planned to satisfy European targets.

Her economic forecasts are also a tad more pessimistic than the government’s. As of June 6, BofA Merrill Lynch was predicting growth of 0.9 percent this year and 1.4 percent in 2015. The government anticipates 1 percent and 1.7 percent.

On European policy, she predicted Hollande will resist German efforts to hand more power to Brussels to punish those who break budget rules.

As she swaps London for the Elysee Palace, Boone can perhaps hope her tenacity wins out with Hollande and that Napoleon was also right when he said “the truest wisdom is a resolute determination.”

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