Update: this letter had coverage in Politico Fair Play newsletter; the Commission has responded: see brief notes below.
A group of civil society groups has written to the European Commission, responding to news that its current Chief Economist for Competition, Pierre Régibeau, is in talks to join the economic consultancy Compass Lexecon, which advises multinationals against the Commission.
As we note, “the risk of a conflict of interests is substantial,” and the European Ombudsman has said that “moves to consultancies are seen as particularly problematic.”
This follows a submission in May by a different civil society grouping that the Commission warning of an apparently imminent appointment of Fiona Scott Morton to this post (to replace Régibeau), also flagging clear conflicts of interest. (Our latest intel is that Scott Morton is still the overwhelming likely candidate, despite what we flagged.)
Update, July 5
Politico’s Fair Play, reporting on our letter, quotes Régibeau:
“Most consulting firms have asked informally about my post-[Chief Economist Team] plans. My response has been that I do not intend to sign with anybody to do competition consulting” [and he has] “pushed back any formal discussion to after my tenure at the Commission and “in any event, I do not intend to ever deal again with a competition case where the Commission is competent, either with a consulting company or on my own.”
The Commission response points to the Politico newsletter and reaffirms what he states, adding that it has robust procedures in place to address such concerns.