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The EU Ombudsman has escalated an investigation regarding ‘revolving doors’ at the European Commission. Their focus will be on Margrethe Vestager’s well-connected and powerful competition department, which has lost some of its experienced people to prominent law firms.

The regulators, who are in charge of investigating issues that affect EU institutions, want to question the Commission officials over how they handle revolving door cases.

Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly wants to meet sometime in mid-November, saying Tuesday that “today we have taken the next step in this inquiry.”

Conflict of interest/gaming the system

The ombudsman has scrutinized the files of about 100 former EU officials who now work in the private sector. The cases look at many directorates general and other departments, with a particular focus on the competition arm.

This inquiry reverses the roles for the competition watchdog, which is typically seen as a powerful arm by others.

O’Reilly said that two years ago, the Commission was urged to “take a more robust approach” but the “strategically important” DG for competition policy, for instance, continues to leak prominent lawyers to private sector organizations with a significant commercial interest in how competition regulation works or is implemented.

In response

The ombudsmen going into action comes weeks after it was announced that Vestager is losing another one of her key lieutenants in the campaign to take on big tech. Few can claim to not see what is happening here.

Many of the lawyers are leaving to join firms that represent big tech firms. They include Nicholas Bansevic (who played a key role in probes against Google), Cecilio Madero Villarejo, Carles, Esteva Mosso, and others who have experience taking on big tech.

When these moves lead to conflicts of interest, it begs the question ‘can the people ever really get the protection they need from nefarious big tech players keen on hauling in even more billions each year?’