“No, not that bank!”: The President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker stated Thursday that in July he had cautioned his predecessor José Manuel Barroso regarding the ethical problem posed by accepting a job at Goldman Sachs. “What was it that I said? I said, I repeat, ‘There’s no problem in him accepting a position at a private bank, but not at that one!’,” declared Mr. Juncker when answering the questions from three young “YouTubers” during an interview co-organized by YouTube and the Euronews network.
And the head of the European Executive explained, “Because Goldman Sachs is one of the institutions which contributed, knowingly or not, to the emergence of a serious financial and economic crisis in 2007, 2008 and 2009,” alluding to the “subprime” loan crisis of very risky mortgage loans sold off by some US financial institutions, forcing many families to abandon their homes.
“I then asked myself questions regarding the nature of the port he was heading to,” added Mr. Juncker, at the same time considering Mr. Barroso to be “an honest fellow”. “He’s a friend,” said Juncker.
The hiring by Goldman Sachs of the President of the Commission from 2004 to 2014 in early July provoked a wave of indignation, particularly expressed through petitions of European citizens and civil servants. French President François Hollande described it as “morally unacceptable.”
The Commission did not see harm in the matter for two months, concentrating on Mr. Barroso’s abiding by the code of conduct signed by European commissioners, which stipulates a waiting period of 18 months prior to being contracted by a private employer. But in the face of criticism for not having considered the ethical problem, Mr. Juncker requested this week a “clarification” of the terms of the work contract with the American bank.
José Manuel Barroso’s reaction last week was to counter attack, alleging on Tuesday acts of “discrimination” against him.