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EU ombudsman: regulator should have stopped director from joining lobby group (politico.eu)
117 points by hhs 13 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 41 comments





Once again the famous EU revolving door takes a spin. Captured regulator 101.

Isn't it the same pretty much everywhere? E.g UK, US, even in China? Companies hiring "ex" government figures for lobbying?

You try to imply that EU is kinda root of all evil.

>> A top official has been poached by Facebook from the UK’s media watchdog, the Office of Communications (Ofcom).

https://www.euractiv.com/section/digital/news/uk-media-watch...

>> Warren Singles Out U.S. Officials for Moving to C-Suite Jobs

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-10-29/warren-pr...


Not my personal opinion, but the answer I often see in response to this is where else are they supposed to go with their skillset?

No where, regardless if you think they are talented or not, clearly they are even if people don’t value that specific skill set they.

They have a unique experience that can’t be gained elsewhere, you can’t regulate an industry you don’t understand and you can’t understand the financial industry without working in it.

So people move back and forth between legislators/regulators and compliance/lobbying.

The only solution is to pay them more but not only it’s not possible it’s also not going to solve anything sometimes people just get bored and want to switch roles. Cooldown periods might help but only a bit as you can’t generally prevent people from gaining employment and if you refuse to hire anyone who has had recent job experience in the financial industry your regulation would be ineffective.


You can not outpay greed.

Cooldown periods might have helped if it were not for the simple fact that many of the position offered to past officials are in fact very well compensated board:committee seats that require very little activity. The implicit assumption by both parties is this is for services rendered during office.


I'm not certain what the precise solution is but what we have now isn't working. Remember that Standard Oil was broken up as a monopoly back in the day - the fact that it grew so large before action was taken isn't great but even once it had nearly unlimited lobbying strength the US still overcame it and managed to break it up - same with Bell.

Industry experts will be in the pool of potential regulators - but that regulatory position used to be stable and lucrative enough to be the final destination as opposed to a stepping stone where scratching a few backs by relaxing some regulations could land you a future cushy job.


That argument resonates with me.

I work in the biotech industry and you see lots of people who move from the FDA to companies and back.

But if you're a company trying to get a drug approved, who else are you going to hire? Same with the FDA. If they're trying to regulate manufacturers, hiring someone from a manufacturer is an ideal way to get that talent.

I'd be satisfied with some strict rules around lobbying and gov't influence. But banning people from moving around? That seems excessive and likely detrimental.


Regulator employee who want job in regulated company will seek to please the company. Which is what is happening and is issue. There is too much temptation to not make it difficult and to not be seen as difficult.

That's a line of thinking that if you take such a position you should probably not take the role.

Alternative: if you are a banking government boss type of position and go work in the private sector, don't work for your 'opposition', instead use your skillset in an unrelated area. It's pretty silly that we have to spell this stuff out for those people or even make laws about it since it's to blatantly obviously unethical that you'd think that even they can see that.


The EU is interesting because it is so new, its courts have barely had their Marbury v Madison moment. We get to watch the capture of all branches of its government and power vacuum in real time, it is exciting and full of opportunity! Unless you are a EU resident or citizen that was skeptical about abstracting away their autonomy and national pride, mixed with a millenium of unresolved baggage against neighbors.

For the rest of us it can fascinating to watch the accelerated growth of that supernational government and its institutions be taken over so quickly and finds it ground.


Since the EU isn't based on common law and pure precedent based lawmaking, those types of legal moments aren't as critical as you might think.

yeah, I've heard that. Its also flexible. When there isn't a way to overrule and the individual people of nations don't have a say, anything is possible.

What's nice about the EU there's 27 different parties and jurisdictions and home markets involved in regulation (note that the EU does not have regulatory powers, merely strong recommendations that nation states should implement at their earliest convenience which may very well be decades into the future). This creates a field in which it is much harder for a particular commercial party to get the upper hand.

This creates a field in which 20 of the 27 jurisdictions have some entrenched interest which securely holds the upper hand in that particular jurisdiction, secure from competition, free to earn economic rents.

it's a story because in the EU it's rather unusual. there were a few high profile cases but to say this is the norm is not really right...

Working directly with ESMA for several years now it’s really not unusual.

Their entire workforce comes from the financial industry.


LOL, there's nothing unusual. The only unusual thing is the ombudsman taking note.

It’s no different from the Fundamentally Supine Authority and the rest of UK regulators...

> The ombudsman presented two findings of maladministration by the EBA. The first is the regulator should have “forbidden the job move.”

I'm not sure how legally enforceable that would be. I wonder if the Bosman ruling would make that move unlawful.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bosman_ruling


I wondered about this as well. How could they (non-extra-legally) forbid the job move?

one interesting, counterintuitive argument i've seen on how to prevent this is in lawrence lessig's book, "republic, lost" about the us congress.

his take is that public servants actually don't make enough money, when compared to their peers in the public sector, and that an important step to preventing regulatory capture is to pay them better. that way, people don't spend their careers in public service trying to avoid pissing off lobbyists they're hoping to work for later.

not sure if it'd work or not, or if making moves like this illegal is better, but it's definitely an interesting idea.


Campaign cost to run for Congress has been skyrocketing for years. And the cost of living in DC is very high, especially for such public figures who are expected to host all kinds of gatherings. It is a wonder that between all these fundraisers they have time and will at all to do policymaking.

In Italy it is illegal for political parties to accept donations[1] and within bounds political parties are reimbursed for their campaign spending (or are dependent on own income)

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mani_pulite


Doesn't stop the problem from flowing the other direction. Often, ex-executives of major firms are now the heads of the regulatory agencies. Do these heads own lots of shares and have obvious conflicts of interest with their 'former' firms? Of course, if your significant other is on the board, well, nothing much the law can say about that either.

The real problem is far too much authority was vested (taken?) by the federal congress. Smaller government is the key to keeping the government in check.


> The real problem is far too much authority was vested (taken?) by the federal congress. Smaller government is the key to keeping the government in check.

That feels like a bit of a non sequitor. Can you elaborate? Genuinely curious.


[citation needed]

What about giving them a high potential but making their actual salary a function of approval rating? In order to maximize how much you make you have to work to unify your constituents.

I don't think you'd want this to be linear either. My feeling is you'd want the pay to stay pretty low anywhere below a 50% support level and climb pretty steeply above that, which discourages the split people down the middle mess the US is in. You'd probably accept that a small portion of people are nutcases so the salary would approach the max at around 85-90% support.

There are some potential exploits that you'd have to try to address but it's a thought.


In that scenario an interested party would need to do no more than pay for a small Facebook campaign to get rid of a disagreeable civil servant.

What we need is checks and balances, not an even more volatile method.


How do you determine approval rating? The reality is that only a small percentage of the public has any idea of whom any public servant is outside of their leader.

And at that point it's easily gamed, and leads to ineffective short termist planning by the public servant.

This is a terrible idea that would be hugely damaging to the public.


The government can't (or shouldn't) pay someone enough to compete with 7-9 figure compensation from the high end of the private sector. If someone actually creates significant value, and gets to share in some small fraction of that value, that's going to outpace any salary-based compensation.

It could be corruption.

I hate headlines like this, where every part is a mystery that leaves you wondering what the story is even about:

> Watchdog

Who? European Ombudsman, Emily O'Reilly.

> slams EU agency

Which? The European Banking Authority.

> for letting boss

Who? Adam Farkas.

> join lobby group

Which? Association for Financial Markets in Europe.


I've taken a crack at adjusting the headline to use language from the article's opening paragraph. However, you're still only getting 1 of your 4. Have an ombudsman, at least.

If there were a way to squeeze banks in there, that'd be good too, but the 80 char limit stymied me.

Generally we take individuals' names out of titles rather than add them in, and adding "AFME" would be adding noise since few readers will have heard of it. In any case, it doesn't seem to matter as much which lobby group the director joined or which director it was who joined a lobby group.


I've suggested "EU Ombudsman criticises banking regulator executive director joining AFME lobby".

(Original is "Watchdog slams EU agency for letting boss join lobby group".)


"slams" is a particular tabloid word as well. I don't think ever seen it used outside of a headline.

It's a tabloid word but it's chosen primarly for being short.

See also the the old Variety headline about rural movie-goers avoiding films set in rural communities: 'Hicks Nix Sticks Flicks'

It's a throwback to when subs had to get punchy compact headlines on paper and didn't have to worry about SEO



May favourite was the one that never got used. For years sub-editors hoped that former Labour leader Michael Foot would be put in charge of the organisation overseeing the decommissioning of weapons in Northern Ireland.

... just so thy could write:

Foot Heads Arms Body

Sadly, it never came to pass.


Seems like it's primarily used for weather events, e.g. Hurricane X slams into Florida.

It's also pretty widely used in politics coverage across many news sites. I did a quick search of WaPo, NYT, BBC, etc. and they all had a few headlines that used it like this.


I've heard teenagers use it when gossiping. Though that's been a while now.

They followed up the SLAM with a SUPLEX off the TOP ROPE.



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