The new non-profit organisation aims to become a counter-weight to lobbying bodies funded by the financial industry. It will operate through a dedicated staff of former financial professionals and will interact extensively with its members, which represent a broad cross-section of society in countries throughout Europe.
Today’s meeting elected a new board, which has appointed as Secretary General Thierry Philipponnat, a former banker turned executive board member at Amnesty International in France.
Mr Philipponnat said: “Today sees the birth of a new organisation dedicated to restoring balance in the debate about financial reform. The level of enthusiasm for this project from our members and the general public has been overwhelming; it will be a privilege to lead Finance Watch in promoting a more society-friendly financial system.”
Today’s inaugural general meeting also confirmed former MEP Ieke Van den Burg as chairperson, and BEUC Director General Monique Goyens as vice-chair.
Ms Van den Burg underlined the special position of Finance Watch in the EU decision-making community: “We are convinced that there is a strong appetite among policy makers for counter-expertise from civil society. Finance Watch should be able to open doors as representatives of a different perspective. The financial industry may have the money but we have the sympathy.”
The board of Finance Watch includes representatives of six member organisations and three individual qualified members. They are:
- European Consumers’ Organisation (BEUC), represented by Monique Goyens, BEUC Director General.
- Fédération Européenne des Epargnants (EuroInvestors), represented by Guillaume Prache, EuroInvestors Managing Director.
- European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), represented by Andreas Botsch, ETUC Special Advisor.
- UNI Europa, represented by Oliver Roethig, UNI Europa acting Regional Secretary.
- Friends of the Earth Europe (FOEE), represented by Paul de Clerck, coordinator of FOEE’s Economic Justice Program.
- Transparency International EU Office, represented by Jacques Terray, Vice-President of TI France and member of TI International Board of Directors.
- Ieke van den Burg, Member of the Scientific Committee of the European Systemic Risk Board, former Member of the European Parliament.
- Philippe Loumeau, Independent consultant, former Chief Operating Officer of Montréal Exchange, former Board member of Boston Options Exchange.
- Wolfgang Köhler, freelance journalist and author, former business and financial editor of “Die Zeit” and former financial editor of “Wirtschaftswoche”.
The full list of organisational and individual qualified members is available at here.
As an independently funded, non-profit organisation, Finance Watch is seeking to raise around €1m in funding from philanthropic organisations and individuals in Europe and a similar amount in seed funding from the European Commission. All funding is to be scrutinised by the body’s ethics committee to ensure complete independence from industry interests and will be published online.
Finance Watch will seek to restore the link between finance and the economy, to push back the financial industry’s reliance on public support and to promote market transparency.
The meeting debated Finance Watch’s initial lobbying priorities, which are likely to include European legislative initiatives CRD IV and the MiFID review, among others.
Finance Watch was created in response to last year’s “Call for a Finance Watch” from Members of the European Parliament in Brussels who were inundated with lobbying from the financial industry. It will act as a counter-lobbying force to improve the visibility of civil society interests to financial services policymakers.
“The debate over financial regulation should take into account the public interest as well as private interests,” said Philipponnat.
What happens next?
Finance Watch will use the summer to appoint a small, dedicated staff including legal and technical experts and professional lobbyists.
After the summer it will start its research and advocacy work, including direct lobbying of legislators and regulators, press and media communication.
Financial journalists will be encouraged to come to Finance Watch as a source of information and of credible, alternative commentary about the reform of European financial regulation.