April 30, 2015 / 6:00 PM / 4 years ago

U.S. firms lead EU lobbying league

* U.S. companies dominate top spending rankings
    * Tech rivals Microsoft, Google among big lobbiers
    * Oil giants maintain high spending, Deutsche Bank grows
    * Data deadline was first since registration mandatory

    By Alastair Macdonald
    BRUSSELS, April 30 (Reuters) - U.S. companies, including
tech rivals Microsoft and Google, were among
leading spenders on corporate lobbying in Brussels last year, a
Reuters review of new data showed (table below).
    Companies had until Thursday to update public entries in the
European Union's newly revamped Transparency Register following
a tightening of rules in January that obliges firms to register
if they want to meet EU commissioners and senior staff.
    Oil majors Exxon Mobil of the United States and
Anglo-Dutch Shell shared the top spot with Microsoft,
with reported spending in their last financial years of between
4.5 and 4.5 million euros ($5.0-5.6 million). 
    Those figures were broadly in line with the trio's spending
in previous filings recorded in January by researchers at
anti-corruption group Transparency International -- the
Commission itself does not provide comparative data with
previous years.
    However, some of the other big spenders recorded sharp
increases, including Google and Germany's Deutsche Bank, which
doubled their expenditure, U.S. chemicals group Dow, which
recorded four times the level of spending as its previous entry.
    None of the companies listed offered comment.
    Google, subject of a high-profile antitrust case launched by
the Commission two weeks ago after a five-year investigation,
spent 3.0-3.5 million euros ($3.4-3.9 million), the same as Dow
. Microsoft, which has itself been fined heavily in the
past by EU antitrust authorities, has been prominent among those
pursuing complaints against its American rival Google.
    Two German companies were among those which spent 3 million
euros or more last year. Deutsche Bank was the fourth
biggest spender, reporting lobbying activity worth 3.96 million
euros, and engineer Siemens spent 3.23 million.
    China's tech leader Huawei Technologies reported
spending of 3.0 million euros in 2014. That was the same as it
had previously reported as spending in its 2012 fiscal year.
    
    DATA QUALITY IMPROVING
    Also reporting spending of 3.0 million was paij GmbH, a
German company that sells a mobile payments app and which put
itself on the Register for the first time in March. Officials at
the company could not immediately be reached for comment.
    U.S. engineering firm General Electric reported lobby
spending in the EU of 3.25-3.50 million euros for 2013. No 2014
data appeared on its page on the Transparency Register.
    Transparency International's Daniel Freund said some changes
in data filed appeared to reflect a recognition among companies
that the Register now set more rigorous reporting requirements.
Over 1,000 organisations registered for the first time after
Jan. 27, when it became a condition for access to officials.
    "The data quality seems to be getting better," Freund said,
while noting that the Register only went some way to clarifying
how much effort was going in to lobbying in Brussels and saying
that the Commission appeared to have so far put only limited
staff resources into scrutiny of the accuracy of entries.
    Other organisations, including non-governmental pressure
groups, must also declare spending. Environmental lobby
Greenpeace, for example, declared 1.0-1.25 million euros in
2013.
    A second element of transparency introduced under European
Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker since he took office in
November is a register of contacts by commissioners and senior
staff with companies, lobby groups and their representatives.
    Transparency International research found U.S. firms Google,
Microsoft and General Electric, as well as European planemaker
Airbus, were among the most active in visiting top EU officials
since such meetings first had to made public in December.
     Company           Nationality      2014 spend  Previous
                                        (EUR mln)*  spend**
 1=  ExxonMobil        U.S.             4.5 - 5.0   4.75 - 5.0
     Microsoft         U.S.             4.5 - 5.0   4.25 - 4.75
     Shell             UK/Netherlands   4.5 - 5.0   4.25 - 4.5
 4   Deutsche Bank     Germany          3.96        1.99
 5=  Dow               U.S.             3.5 - 4.0   0.8 - 0.9
     Google            U.S.             3.5 - 4.0   1.25 - 1.5
 7   Siemens           Germany          3.23        4.36
 8=  Huawei            China            3.0         3.0
     paij              Germany          3.0         n/a
     General Electric  U.S.             n/a         3.25 - 3.5
 *Source: Transparency Register; **Source: Transparency
International

($1 = 0.8934 euros)

 (Reporting by Alastair Macdonald; @macdonaldrtr; Editing by
Elaine Hardcastle)
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