Worse than it looks
The forthcoming loss of Jörgen Holmquist, director general, and David Wright, deputy director-general, two of the most senior and experienced officials from the European Commission’s division responsible for legislation for the banking, insurance, free movement of capital, pensions and capital reserves sectors is bad enough. But accusations that there is a shortage of personnel preparing a “crazy number of legislative initiatives” make the losses worse in this time of crisis.
The Commission employs around 150 preparers of financial legislation in the 700-strong internal market directorate general (DG), the division that generates the bulk of the Commission’s financial legislation. Judith Hardt, secretary general of the Brussels-based Federation of European Securities Exchanges, who has been working with the Commission on such matters for 20 years, is impressed by the high dedication of the officials. But she states that it “still appears to be understaffed” compared with similar administrations in the US and Japan.
Hardt would support more resources, especially for internal research. This would make the Commission more independent from input from external stakeholders. It would avert the risk of “regulatory capture, that is, dependence by officials on information from self interest groups”. Peter Skinner MEP, socialist, would agree.
So, even if the DG is under pressure, what saving angels do investment managers have as their regulatory overlords in the challenging field of financial legislation? At the head is, of course, the commissioner, centre-rightist French politician, Michel Barnier. His background includes a stint as France’s minister of agriculture, and of foreign affairs. In the Commission, he has moved to the new post from a similar mandate for regional affairs. This is hardly a specialist financial background, but he did put up an impressive performance when interviewed by the relevant Parliamentary ccommittee.
His new senior official, replacing Holmquist, will be Jonathan Faull, currently director-general for the justice, freedom and security DG. Faull, British, has a background in law. He is a former Commission spokesman and also served as a deputy director-general for the respected competition DG.
Predictably, Chantal Hughes, spokeswoman for Barnier, disagrees that there is a shortage of legal draftsmen. They get plenty of objective support from all sorts of sources, she says. For instance, help comes from the economic and financial affairs council (ECOFIN), with its national experts at the Council.
It is worth looking at new appointments in the internal market DG. Noteworthy is Barnier’s six-person cabinet. Commissioner’s ‘cabs’ traditionally consist of behind-the-scenes, rising, stars. In this case, chef de cabinet is Olivier Guersent, who left the French civil service for the Commission in 1992.
Formerly, Guersent was a director in the competition DG, that is, a senior figure in Brussels’s high profile fight against cartels. Previously he was head of the merger unit, and has worked in the field of transport.
Highly relevant to the financial legislation sector is Paulina Dejmek, whose responsibilities comprise the free movement of capital, company law and corporate governance, and financial reporting. Also burdening her desk are insurance and pensions, payment services, analysis of financial markets, and risk management for financial companies.
Dejmek, who holds Swedish and Czech citizenship, joined the Commission in 2004. Formerly, at the European Free Trade Association surveillance authority in Brussels, she was responsible for financial services, capital movement and company law. Last year, she served as the financial attaché at the Swedish Permanent Representation to the EU. She holds a doctorate from Heidelberg.
Another cabinet member with responsibilities in the financial sector is Bertrand Dumont. His desk groans under financial services and markets policy, banks and conglomerates. He has responsibilities, outside the portfolio, for taxation and economic and monetary affairs. Dumont’s background includes service in the cabinet of Christine Lagarde, French minister of finance, and service with the IMF.
All impressive CVs no doubt. Let’s hope they help to overcome the loss of Jörgen Holmquist and David Wright to the world of academia.