Lobby scandal : David Earnshaw accused of conflicting interests

30 November 2006

Friends of the Earth Europe submits official complaint to EPACA about pharma lobbyist David Earnshaw's conflicting "independent expert" role at European Parliament

Brussels, 30 November - Friends of the Earth Europe today submitted a complaint to the European Public Affairs Consultancies Association (EPACA), accusing well-known lobbyist David Earnshaw of a conflict of interest between his work lobbying for pharmaceutical clients and his role as an "independent expert" advising the European Parliament's Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) Committee. [1] EPACA's Code of Conduct requires public affairs practitioners to avoid any conflicts of interest.

Paul de Clerck of Friends of the Earth Europe said, "This is a perfect example of the flaws in the Brussels lobbying setup. A powerful lobbyist for the pharmaceutical industry is working as a so-called independent advisor for the European Parliament, which is a clear conflict of interest. It is no wonder that Mr Earnshaw has been nominated for the Worst EU Lobby Award." [2]

Mr Earnshaw was appointed as a health expert by the European Parliament's ENVI Committee at the end of 2005. The expert panel was installed to make parliamentarians less dependent on information supplied by lobbyists, trade organisations and industry. However, as Mr Earnshaw is also a lobbyist working as Managing Director for Burson Marsteller, there is clearly a conflict of interest: Mr Earnshaw advises several major pharmaceutical companies, such as Novartis and Pfizer, who have a strong interest in the positions adopted by the ENVI Committee.

In March this year, David Earnshaw wrote a briefing note for the ENVI Committee about advanced therapy medicinal products, advocating against EU member states banning such products. Advanced therapy medicinal products include gene therapy products, somatic cell therapy products and human tissue engineered products for medicinal use. Shortly afterwards, information appeared on the Burson Marsteller website, conveying a similar position for the benefit of the company's pharmaceutical clients.

Mr Earnshaw has stated that he did not lobby about advanced medicinal therapy for Burson Marsteller while advising the ENVI Committee on the same issue.[3] However, suspicion has heightened because a lack of transparency prevents verification of his claims. His statements can not be checked because Mr Earnshaw and Burson Marsteller do not provide a detailed list of their pharmaceutical clients and the issues they lobbied on for these clients.

"David Earnshaw claims that his work advising the European Parliament on health issues is not connected with his work for Burson Marsteller for pharmaceutical companies. But it is difficult to trust him, when he and Burson Marsteller are so untransparent that there is no way for MEPs, citizens or other stakeholders to check." Mr de Clerck said.

In addition, Mr Earnshaw implies that the pharmaceutical industry did not lobby on advanced therapy medicinal products at all and that Burson Marsteller did not even give advice to their clients on the issue. [3] Friends of the Earth Europe has demonstrated this to be untrue - the German Pharmaceutical Industry Association lobbied the European Commission arguing against EU member states being allowed to ban advanced therapy medicinal products and Burson Marsteller posted information alerting their pharma clients to this threat on their website. [4]

Friends of the Earth Europe requests EPACA to take the necessary steps to prevent any further conflict of interest in relation to David Earnshaw's services to the ENVI Committee of the European Parliament. Friends of the Earth Europe also urges the European Commission to establish a registration system that formally obliges lobbyists to disclose their clients and the issues they have been lobbying on.

 

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NOTES:

[1] The full text of the complaint is available as a PDF file at: http://www.foeeurope.org/publications/2006/EPACA_complaint_Earnshaw_301106.pdf

[2] Information about the Worst EU Lobby Award 2006 can be found at: http://www.worstlobby.eu/nominations.html

[3] See a letter from Mr Earnshaw to Kathy Sinnott MEP:
http://englandexpects.blogspot.com/2006/09/new-labour-lobbyist-caught-in-breach.html

[4] Information on the Burston Marsteller website: http://www.bmbrussels.be/hotissues/hi_200607.php
Statement from German Pharmaceutical Industries Association to the European Commission