EU ethics watchdog Emily O’Reilly opens ECB probe

The EU’s ethics watchdog led by Emily O’Reilly has opened an inquiry into the participation of ECB president Mario Draghi and senior ECB officials in the work of an exclusive group that includes bankers and fund managers.

The European Ombudsman’s probe relates to ties between ECB officials and the Group of Thirty, a private organisation where policymakers, economists, bankers, and fund managers meet behind closed doors to discuss economic and monetary affairs.

Ties between the ECB and financial sector firms have been in the spotlight since 2015, when a top official discussed the bank’s money-printing plans at a private event with hedge funds.

The inquiry was triggered by a complaint by activist group Corporate Europe Observatory, which says proximity between ECB officials and the G30 is incompatible with Frankfurt’s role as the eurozone’s top banking watchdog. 

Members of the G30 include several former and current central bankers, including Bank of England governor Mark Carney and Bank of Japan’s Haruhiko Kuroda, as well as Nobel prize winner Paul Krugman. 

But it also includes the chairmen of several commercial banks, such as JP Morgan’s Jacob A Frenkel and UBS’s Axel Weber.

Ombudsman Ms O’Reilly, who watches for lapses in ethics or transparency at European institutions and can make non-binding recommendations, is now asking the ECB to hand over documents illustrating its ties with the group.

“As a first step in my inquiry, I would ask that the ECB facilitate an inspection of all relevant ECB-held documents which will help my office gain a fuller understanding of the extent and range of the ECB’s overall involvement with the G30,” she said in a letter to Mr Draghi.

Mr Draghi has been a member of the G30 since 2006, when he was still the governor of the Bank of Italy.

“The treaty requires the ECB to maintain a dialogue with external stakeholders,” an ECB spokesperson said.

“We see [the G30] as 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.”

A similar complaint lodged by the same activist group in 2012 was rejected by then-ombudsman Nikiforos Diamandouros.



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