BlackRock case: Putting an end to conflicts of interest at European level

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

BlackRock's controversial contract to advise the European Commission should be put on hold and new transparency criteria introduced to prevent such conflicts of interest, writes Aurore Lalucq and a group of 58 MEPs. EPA-EFE/JUSTIN LANE

BlackRock’s controversial contract to advise the European Commission should be put on hold and new transparency criteria introduced to prevent such conflicts of interest, writes Aurore Lalucq and a group of 58 MEPs.

This open letter is signed by Aurore Lalucq, a Socialist and Democrat group MEP and a cross-party group of 58 MEPs.

In April, we were shocked to learn the selection of BlackRock as an adviser to the European Commission for the integration of social and environmental factors in the supervision of banks in Europe.

A problematic decision, to say the least, since BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, looks after the interests of eight of the planet’s major oil companies and owns over $87 billion dollars of assets in fossil fuel companies.

Not to mention the fact that BlackRock, along with other multinationals like oil giants Shell and BP, is fighting at the same time to increase the size of carbon trading markets: in short, to ensure that there are enough carbon credits to keep on polluting as much as they want, and legally. 

It is therefore difficult not to see this call for projects as a flagrant conflict of interest since BlackRock will have to both defend the interests of its clients and advise the European institutions in the implementation of their environmental strategy.

We, therefore, as MEPs, have decided to call on the services of the European Commission and hold them accountable for this highly problematic decision.

In a letter, we asked them to clarify the reasons for this choice but also to proceed with a new call for tenders, truly transparent and committed to prevent any conflict of interest.

In response to this inquiry, the European Commission refuted any possibility of conflict of interest, and highlighted the competitive nature of the BlackRock application. In other words, the contract was awarded to the cheapest candidate, with no regard for the risks regarding independence and conflicts of interest.

The European Commission only answered that a “physical separation” was planned to separate the activities of BlackRock” and that it was up to BlackRock itself to notify the Commission of “any situation likely to constitute a conflict of interest”. Not much to reassure us.

While we must, of course, be concerned with the proper use of public funds, it is nevertheless surprising that this element is the only one considered relevant in deciding on the attribution of such a sensitive mission. Especially since the unbeatable quote offered by BlackRock questions their willingness to cut prices to ensure they win this call for projects.

This is the reason why we, MEPs, are calling for a moratorium on the contract between BlackRock and the European Commission as well as the implementation of a new call for tenders, including transparency criteria in order to avoid, in the future, any conflict of interest.

Among these new criteria, we ask to make public all of the names of the candidates ; to exclude actors whose clients pursue objectives in conflict with those of the mission entrusted ; to exclude offers whose price differs too greatly from that offered by other competitors.

Award of contracts must not be based only on the price criteria but also social and environmental requirements should be included in all calls for tenders.

These simple criteria should make it possible to avoid such obvious situations of conflicts of interest which not only jeopardize the European Union’s path towards an efficient ecological transition but also increasingly undermine citizens’ confidence in the European institutions, which must be absolutely irreproachable in this area. Let us have the courage to implement them.

Signatories:

Aurore Lalucq (S&D, France)

François Alfonsi (Verts/ALE, France), Rasmus Andresen (Verts/ALE, Allemagne), Eric Andrieu (S&D, France), Marc Angel (S&D, Luxembourg), Marie Arena (S&D, Belgique), Pascal Arimont (PPE, Belgique), Manon Aubry (GUE/NGL, France), Pernando Barrena (GUE/NGL, Espagne), Robert Biedroń (S&D, Pologne), Benoît Biteau (Verts, France), Vilija Blinkevičiūtė (S&D, Lituanie), Manuel Bompard (GUE/NGL, France), Milan Brglez (S&D, Slovénie), Saskia Bricmont (Verts/ALE, Belgique), Damien Careme (Verts/ALE, France), Anna Cavazzini (Verts/ALE, Allemagne), Leila Chaibi (GUE/NGL, France), David Cormand (Verts/ALE, France), Ignazio Corrao (NI, Italie), Jakop Dalunde (Verts/ALE, Suède), Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield (Verts/ALE, France), Karima Delli (Verts/ALE, France), Özlem Alev Demirel (GUE/NGL, Allemagne), Pascal Durand (Renew, France), Eleonora Evi (NI, Italie), Tanja Fajon (S&D, Slovénie), Niels Fuglsang (S&D, Danemark), Alexandra Geese (Verts/ALE, Allemagne), Alexis Georgoulis (GUE/NGL, Grèce), Raphaël Glucksmann (S&D, France), Claude Gruffat (Verts/ALE, France), Sylvie Guillaume (S&D, France), José Gusmao (GUE/NGL, Portugal), Martin Hojsík (Renew, Slovaquie), Pär Holmgren (Verts/ALE, Suède), Yannick Jadot (Verts/ALE, France), Alice Kuhnke (Verts/ALE, Suède), Philippe Lamberts (Verts/ALE, Belgique), Marisa Matias (GUE/NGL, Portugal), Emmanuel Maurel (GUE/NGL, France), Nora Mebarek (S&D, France), Evelyn Regner (S&D, Autriche), Diana Riba i Giner (Verts/ALE, Espagne), Michèle Rivasi (Verts/ALE, France), Eugenia Rodriguez Palop (GUE/NGL, Espagne), Caroline Roose (Verts/ALE, France), Mounir Satouri (Verts/ALE, France), Andreas Schieder (S&D, Autriche), Martin Schirdewan (GUE/NGL, Allemagne), Helmut Scholz (GUE/NGL, Allemagne), Jordi Solé (Verts/EFA, Espagne), Marc Tarabella (S&D, Belgique), Marie Toussaint (Verts/ALE, France), Idoia Villanueva (GUE/NGL, Espagne), Ernest Urtasun (Verts/ALE, Espagne), Viktor Uspaskich (Renew, Lituanie), Salima Yenbou (Verts/ALE, France), Stéphanie Yon-Courtin (Renew, France)

Subscribe to our newsletters

Subscribe
Contribute