The actors: Norbert Hülm ("the doer"); Manfred Breitenstein ("the tactician"); Bastian Michael ("the salesman"); Producer: Jakob Huber; Marco Heinig; Director: Döndü Kilic; DOP: Max Preis
What is the financial lobby up to?
"We, as European elected officials in charge of regulating financial markets and banks, can see every day the pressure exerted by the financial and banking industry to influence the laws governing it.” Thus begins a current appeal made by European Union parliamentarians (see Call for Finance Watch). This quote clearly shows the enormous influence the financial lobby has on public policy made in Brussels.
While on principle no objection can be made to a fair representation of the financial sector’s interests, the strong dominance of the financial lobby is no longer about a pluralistic representation of interests. Rather, this dominance is increasingly undermining fundamental democratic principles. Even necessary reforms of financial markets appear to be extremely unlikely. Before the crisis began, the financial lobby was heavily involved in the deregulation of EU legislation, and now it is doing everything in its power to prevent stringent regulation while averting any participation in the costs of the crisis. For its part, the European Commission wants a close relationship with the financial sector, and even in the aftermath of the crisis, is seeking expertise from it. The extent of financial consulting has even eclipsed that in the USA, which is not exactly devoid of lobbies itself. But in America, at least the stock exchange supervisory authority is investigating major banks and their business activities. The crisis has shown how essential an extensive reform of the financial system is. This is necessary to prevent another crisis, which could once again shake the world, while also forcing taxpayers around the world to pay for the losses of the banking industry. What’s more, the fundamental relationship between society and the financial world must be redefined.
The financial system needs to play a socially productive role again. The world is now facing enormous social and ecological problems, and without the backing of a strongly aligned financial system, these can hardly be overcome. But it is exactly these wide-reaching reforms that the financial lobby is trying to prevent at all costs, by deploying heavy tactics to water down reforms and regulations in as far as possible. It is warning about the damaging effects of strict reforms on economic recovery and the labour market while threatening rising capital costs and fewer loans. Apart from a few tentative admissions of guilt, however, the damaging effects of the financial sector on the economy and society are not being discussed.
But EU policymaking can also be corrupted in other ways. The neo-liberal ideology of politics today leads to a certain solidarity with the financial system. And sometimes even the personal interests of politicians, who hope to secure lucrative consulting positions in the private sector after finishing their political careers, can play a role. One only needs to look at the career of the former European Commissioner for the Internal Market, Charlie McCreevy, who after leaving the Commission took a position on the executive board of an investment fund. As Commissioner for the Internal Market (2004-2010) he was responsible for the regulation of the financial markets, among other areas. Such funds had been the beneficiaries of McCreevy’s lax regulation, and only now, after the crisis, will a guideline be introduced that regulates alternative investment funds. Only through strong public pressure and the intervention of the EU Ethics Committee did McCreevy step down from his post at the investment fund (see CEO). Adequately strict rules are still not in place to regulate the crossover of EU commissioners to the private sector. Further cases of politicians crossing over into private industry continue to arouse the suspicion of conflicts of interest.
If financial markets are to be effectively regulated and placed in the service of the public, the power of the financial lobby must also be broken. This will ultimately allow long-term democratic reform. By Hans Rackwitz.
Further information about the financial lobby:
- CEO (Corporate Europe Observatory) monitors and fights the influence enjoyed by corporations and their lobby groups in EU policy making. Also refer to the Blog Brussels sunshine.
- Lobby Control provides clear information about power structures and influence strategies in Germany and the EU (German). Also refer to its information portal Lobbypedia
- Alter-EU (Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation) is a coalition of 160 non-governmental groups, trade unions, consulting firms and academics.
- Finance Watch is a cross-factional initiative from EU parliamentarians who denounce the imbalance of power between the financial lobby and the public-interest lobby.
- Worst EU Lobbying Awards 2010: Wählen Sie den schlimmsten EU-Lobbyisten!
Studies and further information: