Friday, 30 January 2009

Lobby register fails transparency test, new report concludes

Earlier this week, the ALTER-EU coalition published the report “Commission lobby register fails transparency test”.

This first in-depth assessment of the Commission’s register concludes that the voluntary approach is failing: the compliance rate is alarmingly low and the overall quality of information disclosed is very poor.

Main findings:

  • so far less than 20% of Brussels-based lobby entities have registered;
  • registration levels are low for all categories of “interest representati­ves”, whether these are lobby firms, corporations, industry lobby groups, think tanks, law firms, NGOs or trade unions lobbying the EU institutions;
  • most of the major lobby firms, corporations and industry lobby groups with offices in Brussels are still missing from the register;
  • large law firms that provide lobbying services and major Brussels-based think tanks seem to be boycotting the register;
  • lax reporting requirements allow lobby consultancies to avoid meaningful financial disclosure and hide the size of the lobbying work they undertake for their clients.
  • the absence of a clear definition of what to include when calculating lobby expenses allows lobby firms, corporations and business lobby groups to register amounts that are almost certainly lower than their real spending, as shown by the registrations of BP, BusinessEurope and CEFIC.
To restore the credibility of its transparency agenda, the European Commission must:
  • introduce a mandatory registration system;
  • develop far more detailed requirements and guidance for financial disclosure;
  • make data entries comparable;
  • include an obligation to report the names of lobbyists.
Read the full report.

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Monday, 19 January 2009

Commission suspends registration by GPlus

On 15 January, the registration of lobby firm GPlus suddenly disappeared from the EC Register of Interest Representatives. That got us curious, and we asked the Commission what happened. Today we received a response: "The registration of GPlus Ltd. has been suspended, as it had not been completed yet."

Gplus's mystery clients

As the registration had been on line since 15 December, the question is what information the Commission considered incomplete.

Luckily, the suspended registration itself can still be found on line. Under "Other (financial) information" we read that GPlus took the liberty of not listing all its clients:

The list above excludes the names of three clients who have asked not to be included in the register and one further client who has itself registered. Each of these clients accounts for less than 10% of our relevant revenues.
This clearly violates the Commission's requirements for registration. The registration form for lobby firms explicitly says that firms "must publish a full list of all customers on behalf of whom you have lobbied EU institutions. If you do not do so, your registration cannot be accepted."

Looks like GPlus tried if they could get away with leaving out the names of three of their clients. We're happy to see that the Commission is monitoring the quality of the data entered into the Register and taking measures when needed.

We asked GPlus for a comment, but so far we have received no reply.

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