Draghi investigated over alleged ethics breach
by Daniel Mason
An investigation has been launched into Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, over allegations that his membership of a group of leading financial sector figures constitutes a conflict of interest.
European Ombudsman Nikiforos Diamandouros has written to the ECB about the claims and the bank has until October to respond, the watchdog's spokeswoman Gundi Gadesmann was quoted as saying by Reuters.
It comes after a complaint by Corporate Europe Observatory, a non-governmental organisation that campaigns for transparency in European Union institutions, which said Draghi's participation in the so-called Group of Thirty called into question his independence, particularly at a time when the ECB looks set to gain new powers as a single eurozone banking supervisor.
The Group of Thirty brings together central bankers such as Bank of England governor Mervyn King and former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, as well as renowned economists including Paul Krugman and Lawrence Summers. Formed in 1978, it is chaired by Draghi's predecessor as ECB chief Jean-Claude Trichet, and meets in plenary sessions twice a year.
According to its website its aim is to "deepen understanding of international economic and financial issues, to explore the international repercussions of decisions taken in the public and private sectors, and to examine the choices available to market practitioners and policy-makers".
Corporate Europe Observatory said last month that Draghi's ties with the group were "at odds with the ECB's rules on ethics". As it aims to influence public and private banking, the Group of Thirty "bears all the characteristics of a lobbying vehicle for big international private banks and the president of the ECB should not be able to be a member", it added.
An ECB spokeswoman confirmed to Reuters that the ombudsman's letter had been received and a reply would be sent within the required timeframe. She denied the allegations of a conflict of interest.
Draghi is already at the centre of attention in Europe after saying last week that the ECB would do "whatever it takes" to save the euro. Markets rallied on the back of the comments amid expectations that the bank will agree new measures to intervene in stressed bond markets at its monthly board meeting on Thursday.