EU ombudsman criticises BlackRock contract

(EurActiv, 25 Nov 2020) The EU’s ombudsman on Wednesday (25 November) reproached the European Commission for a contract with BlackRock, the world’s biggest asset manager, to study sustainable finance regulations which raised conflict-of-interest questions.

Emily O’Reilly, whose role is to be an ethics watchdog over the Commission, criticised current rules on attributing contracts, saying they were “not robust and clear enough to allow officials to find conflict of interest other than in a very narrow range of professional conflicts”.

Although her finding cannot cancel the contract to the US company, it comes with recommendations that the vetting rules be overhauled.

It also noted that BlackRock’s bidding price for the €280,000 contract was “exceptionally low … which could be perceived as an attempt to assert influence over an investment area of relevance to its clients”.

A spokesman for the European Commission responded by saying the ombudsman’s report “did not identify any maladministration” and asserted that the current contract-awarding rules were applied “fully and fairly”.

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EurActiv, 25 Nov 2020: EU ombudsman criticises BlackRock contract