EU watchdog calls for review of Barroso's role at Goldman Sachs

EU watchdog calls for review of Barroso's role at Goldman Sachs
The European Ombudsman has called for a formal reassessment over the current position of former EU Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso at Goldman Sachs. Barroso was accused of ethics violation and conflict of interest.

According to the Ombudsman, who led a year-long investigation, there are new revelations that Barroso met a senior EU official last October to lobby on behalf of the Wall Street bank, despite having been warned not to lobby his former employers.

“Putting the matter to the ethics committee once more would demonstrate that the Commission has taken very seriously public concern over this affair and the damage done to the image of the EU institutions – despite the hard work and ethical behavior of the vast majority of people who work in them,” Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly said on Thursday.

Barroso tweeted in response: “The European Ombudsman’s recommendations published today do not involve any legal assessment of my duties as she has confirmed in a letter to me made available on her website.”

He added that the independent Ad Hoc Ethical Committee had reviewed his “professional appointment well over a year ago and did not find that it involved any breach of my duties.”

Barroso was Portugal’s prime minister from 2002 to 2004, and later served as President of the European Commission from 2004 to 2014.

In 2016, EU Chief Executive Jean-Claude Juncker launched an ethics investigation into his predecessor, Barroso, to examine whether he had breached a lifetime obligation for ex-commissioners to “behave with integrity.” 

Barroso was cleared by the ethics committee of violating any rules when taking a job at Goldman Sachs, where he was supposed to help “limit the negative effects of Brexit.” However, his decision to join the Wall Street bank has been much criticized, with more than 130,000 people signing a petition for “exemplary measures.” They said he had failed to “behave with integrity and discretion.”

Goldman Sachs, which helped spark the 2008 financial crisis, is also blamed for assisting Greece in hiding its financial situation in order to enter the eurozone in 2000. 

The EU has the power to ask the EU court to cut the pensions of former commissioners who breach treaty obligations to act with integrity, but such a step would be unprecedented.

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