The EU watchdog has given the European Commission a slap on the wrist for failing to weigh up possible conflicts of interest when it hired Blackrock to help look into green banking rules.
EU ombudsman Emily O’Reilly asked the Commission – the executive branch of the bloc – to consider toughening up its conflict of interest provisions, amid concerns that they are not robust or clear enough.
It comes after the Commission hired asset management giant Blackrock to produce a study as part of plans to “green” the EU’s financial regulations.
Many questioned the appointment as Blackrock is one of the world’s biggest investors in fossil fuels through its $7.8 trillion (£5.9 trillion) assets under management.
O’Reilly today found that the applicable rules were not robust and clear enough to allow Commission officials to find conflict of interest, other than in a very narrow range of professional areas.
“An application by a company to carry out a study meant to feed into policy that will regulate that company’s business interests should have resulted in significantly more critical scrutiny by the Commission,” the ombudsman said.
‘Underlying problem’ with EU rules
O’Reilly said she took the view that the underlying problem is with the current EU rules on public procurement. She said she will therefore bring the matter to the attention of the EU legislators.
Blackrock said that it was awarded the contract due to the “technical quality” of its financial markets advisory unit’s (FMA) proposal.
“FMA has taken a wide-ranging and inclusive approach, including academia, civil society, banks, supervisors and market practitioners, and looks forward to completing its work and delivering its final report to the Commission.”
A European Commission spokesperson said: “The European Commission takes note of the European Ombudsman’s report, which did not identify any maladministration. We welcome this finding.
“It confirms what we have said throughout this process: we applied the rules fully and fairly. The Commission will now study all the suggestions made by the Ombudsman in detail.”