Draghi’s Role in Elite Finance Group Comes Under EU Scrutiny

  • Ombudsman to review ECB president’s membership of Group of 30
  • ECB says it has tools to avoid any conflicts of interest

The European Union ombudsman has opened an inquiry into European Central Bank President Mario Draghi’s involvement with an elite group of economic leaders.

The investigation will consider Draghi’s membership of the Group of 30, a forum of finance executives, academics and policy makers including Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, Warburg Pincus LLC President Tim Geithner, Credit Suisse Group AG Chief Executive Officer Tidjane Thiam, and former ECB chief Jean-Claude Trichet. The ombudsman will also look into the “involvement of senior ECB people in the work of the G30,” according to the letter sent to Draghi by the ombudsman, Emily O’ Reilly.

The EU citizens’ advocate carried out a similar investigation in 2012 and 2013, concluding that “the allegation that the ECB president’s membership of the Group of Thirty is incompatible with the independence, reputation and integrity of the ECB is not justified.”

The earlier inquiry and the current one were both prompted by complaints by the Corporate Europe Observatory. The campaign group justifies renewed action by arguing that the context in which the ECB now operates is “quite different,” the ombudsman said. Since 2014, the ECB has become the euro area’s sole banking supervisor.

“We look forward to providing the ombudsman with information on this matter,” an ECB spokesman said by e-mail. The G30 is “a relevant forum to engage with, always remembering that we have a range of rules and instruments in place to avoid apparent or potential conflicts of interest.”

Previous Scrutiny

Corporate Europe Observatory says its research shows a “severe lack of critical distance between the ECB’s decision-making bodies and corporate bankers in the G30.” It also objects to Supervisory Board member Julie Dickson’s contribution to a G30 report on banking conduct and culture.

The ombudsman can make recommendations but has no power to enforce them. It scrutinized the ECB in 2015, when it was asked for clarification after Executive Board member Benoit Coeure disclosed market-sensitive information to a limited audience. The central bank tightened its rules for meetings with investors after the incident.

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