Transparency campaigners challenge the decision to renew the mandate of the members of the ad hoc ethical committee

Publication date: 
Monday, January 14, 2013
Corporate Accountability International, Corporate Europe Observatory (ALTER-EU) and LobbyControl (ALTER-EU)

The European Commission in mid-December decided to renew the mandate of the three members of the ad hoc ethical committee (Michel Petite, Rafael Garcia-Valdecasas and Terry Wynn) for a second three year period. The signatories of this letter would like to ask you to re-consider Mr. Petites’ re-appointment.

Open letter of Corporate Accountability International, Corporate Europe Observatory and LobbyControl to José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission

Executive summary / policy recommendations: 

Mr. Petite headed the Commission’s Legal Service from 2001 to the end of 2007 and then went through the revolving door to private law firm Clifford Chance, a firm that also offers lobbying services. Clifford Chance, on its website, tells potential clients “You may be fa-ced with the prospect of a regulatory development or policy decision that threatens the very nature of your business.... We offer a blend of legal and political expertise” and can assist in “approaching government or the EU institutions... advising on the parliamentary and political process, and drafting and tabling amendments to proposed legislation.”[1]

Mr. Petite represents the interests of companies[2], and specialises in European Commission policies, community law and competition law, alongside antitrust, trade, banking, taxation and government relations and public policy (according to the company’s website).[3] ‘Government relations and public policy’ are synonyms for lobbying services. The Commission granted approval for his move to Clifford Chance but told Petite not to lobby former colleagues or to deal with cases involving his previous department, for just one year.

Despite advertising lobbying services (‘political advocacy strategy’ and ‘government relations’), on its website, Clifford Chance has not registered in the EU’s voluntary Transparency Register, which means it is impossible to see for which clients Mr. Petite and his colleagues are working. However, in the Commission’s December 2012 response to European Parliament’s questions about the circumstances leading to the resignation of Commissioner Dalli, it became clear that tobacco giant Philip Morris International is a client of Clifford Chance, and that as a Clifford Chance lawyer Mr Petite presented views on tobacco legislation at meetings with Legal Service officials. The Commission response notes that Mr. Petite met with Legal Service officials in September 2011 and in September 2012. “Mr Petite mentioned that his law firm provided legal advice to a tobacco company (Philip Morris International) and set out his views on some legal issues of tobacco legislation.”[4]

We would like to stress that decisions about Commissioners’ ethics should be truly independent. We would like to reiterate the suggestions made by the ALTER-EU coalition in the open letter sent to you on November 5th, including the following: “we encourage you to consider establishing an independent ethics committee, with a broader and better defined mandate than the existing ad hoc ethical committee, which deals primarily with post-employment issues. This committee must be fully independent and composed of experts on public administration ethics.”[5]

1. See

2. For example, Crédit Agricole S.A., and ING. See

3. See

4. See answer to Q.15 to the Commission, pg. 36/46:

5. See: