Saturday, 03. November 2018
Adviser, authorized representative, overseer: Friedrich Merz has accumulated offices and mandates since leaving active politics. This should be over when he is at the CDU top. On the way there, there will probably be many more questions.
5000 euros a day. That was the fee of Friedrich Merz, when he was "authorized to sell" Landesbank WestLB, which was supported by massive state aid. It was one of many top jobs in the private sector that Merz held in recent years – and holds. Since retiring from active politics in 2009, he has had a successful career: Merz, the multifunctional and networker.
What jobs has and does Merz have in the private sector?
The now 62-year-old lawyer has been working since 2005 in the Düsseldorf office of the international law firm Mayer Brown. According to the firm, Merz advises companies on mergers. His clients include "numerous DAX companies and international corporations". Merz also holds a number of posts: He heads the supervisory board of asset manager Blackrock Germany and also leads the supervisory board of the Arnsberg-based company Wepa, which manufactures toilet paper, for example.
In addition, Merz heads the supervisory board of Cologne-Bonn Airport and is a member of the supervisory board of the private bank HSBC Germany. He also sits on the board of directors of the Swiss Zugbauers and Siemens competitor Stadler Rail. Merz is so well connected. He wants to resign from his supervisory board mandates, should he be elected in December as the new CDU chairman.
What's Merz doing at Blackrock – and what's Blackrock doing?
One of the posts of Merz, who are now mainly in the headlines, is the chairman of the supervisory board at the German offshoot of Blackrock. The world's largest fund company has tremendous power in the financial markets. Critics such as journalist Heike Buchter ("Die Zeit"), who published the book "Blackrock – A Secret World Power For Our Money" in 2015, consider the New York-based company to be a threat to the global economy.
Blackrock founder Larry Fink started the company in 1988 as a small side business of the investment company Blackstone. He made them finally by the purchase of the fund provider iShares after the financial crisis to the industry giant. Blackrock last managed around $ 6.4 trillion ($ 5.7 trillion) in client money – more than any other financial group. In addition, the company earns well on its analysis department – that this also advises governments and central banks, provides again and again for suspicion.
In Germany Blackrock has a lot of influence through many companies. According to data from the Financial Supervisory Authority Bafin, the Americans are involved in at least 67 stock companies in this country. According to the Association of DSW, the financial group is the largest single shareholder in 20 of the 30 DAX companies, and holds more than five percent of the 19 DAX companies.
What role did Merz play in WestLB?
The NRW-Landesbank had fallen into difficulties during the financial market crisis, the state had to support the institute. The plan was to sell to a private investor. Merz was appointed in 2010 by the state-owned bank rescue fund SoFFin for sale – he was to sell the shares of the Landesbank, which were then at the Federal Government, North Rhine -Westphalia and the local savings banks. A complete sale of the institute failed at the end, the Landesbank was smashed, and Merz's job ended after a year.
The fee agreed with Merz was € 5,000 per calendar day, and additional costs were assumed for other consultants, such as investment bankers and corporate leases, as shown in the report of the parliamentary committee of inquiry of the NRW Landtag on the events surrounding WestLB. This was "not exactly a cheap offer," said former NRW Finance Minister Norbert Walter-Borjans as a witness to the committee. Merz himself testified as a witness that the fee had met "standard hourly rates".
What makes Merz the NRW "Brexit Officer"?
Since early January 2018, Merz is Brexit representative of the CDU-led NRW state government. He should also strengthen relations with the difficult partner USA under President Donald Trump. The lawyer and convinced transatlanticist is well connected here, since 2009 he is chairman of the "Atlantic Bridge". The opposition in North Rhine-Westphalia had criticized, with Merz get a "top lobbyist" of the private financial sector direct, unhindered access to the State Chancellery.
Why is there criticism of Merz?
The many roles and the nature of his duties have called critics to the scene. Timo Lange of LobbyControl, a not-for-profit association committed to greater transparency in policymaking, said: "Given the life of Friedrich Merz and his many jobs and lobbying in the economy, conflicts of interest are almost inevitable." The chairman of the anti-corruption organization Transparency Germany, Edda Müller, said: "Friedrich Merz will have to explain to the members of the CDU how he has campaigned for a socially responsible action of his clients in his various functions in the financial industry – for example as a supervisory board the private bank HSBC Germany, which was involved in cum-ex-business. " Merz must show how he wants to use these experiences for a "common good policy".
What does Merz say?
The CDU politician rejected allegations Blackrock was a "grasshopper". Among other things, the term was coined in 2004 by former SPD boss Franz Müntefering – for financial investors who ruthlessly pressurized and robbed acquired companies. Blackrock fiddles deposits of hundreds of thousands of private clients, saying he sees "no conflict," Merz said. "I oversee this company in Germany, but I do not manage it." To say a little later in his much acclaimed appearance before the capital city journalists: "Germany has a far too small number of shareholders."