Monday, 2 February 2009

GPlus back on EU lobbying register after disclosing previously unnamed clients

One and a half week after this blog broke the news of the suspension of Brussels lobby firm GPlus from the European Commission’s lobbying register, the company is back on the register after having disclosed four previously unnamed clients.

As the GPlus suspension was getting picked up in the media the company went into “crisis management” mode, with a statement published on the GPlus home page.



According to an article in the Financial Times:
“Peter Guilford, one of GPlus’ founders, said the firm had informed the commission in December, when it first joined the registry, that it had pre-existing confidentiality agreements with three clients, who did not want their names disclosed. Two of those clients are no longer represented by GPlus.”
But in the end the confidentiality agreements between GPlus and these clients proved to be less sacrosanct than suggested initially and GPlus disclosed the names of the four previously unlisted clients.

By following up on this case and forcing publication of unlisted clients' names, the Commission has set an important precedent. For other lobbying consultancies the case should serve as a lesson, showing that it can be pretty counterproductive not to provide a full clients list when registering.

Corporate Europe Observatory has strong indications that some of the other lobby firms that have registered so far also fail to publish a full list of their clients. Unlike GPlus, these sneaky guys don't announce publicly that their list is incomplete. But if such violations of the registration rules will indeed be uncovered, these firms may find themselves much more in need of "crisis management" than GPlus was last week.

The clients that had asked GPlus for confidentiality are:Japanese carmaker Toyota is registered separately, reporting 250,000 – 300,000 euro spending on lobbying in 2008.

As part of the “crisis management” to avoid reputation damage, GPlus also published a pdf document containing its entry on the register. In this document, GPlUs declares a total turnover on lobbying in 2007 of £ 1.97 million (€ 2.1792 million). But on the register website, the firm chooses to be less transparent and only indicates that its lobbying turnover in 2007 was over 1 million euro.

Last autumn, GPlus was nominated for the Worst EU Lobbying Awards 2008 for supporting the spread of war propaganda on behalf of the Russian Federation. One of GPlus’s clients, the Malaysian Palm Oil Council, won the Worst EU Lobbying Award 2008, together with Abengoa and UNICA.

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