Caterpillar declined to appear today in front of the European Parliament’s Inquiry Committee investigating the Panama Papers scandal. The US-based machine engineering company is alleged to have illegally used a Swiss subsidiary to record profits from its international spare parts business to minimise its tax burden. In contrast, Caterpillar decided in March 2017 to close its Belgian plant and by this laying off 2000 workers. Caterpillar is registered in the EU Transparency Register of European Parliament and Commission and thus has access to key policy makers. Registration in the Transparency Register for lobbyists allows for entrance passes to Parliament’s premises yet also requires to follow the Code of Conduct including the obligation to cooperate with Parliamentary inquiries. The Green Plan for Transparency and Integrity in the European Parliament suggested the sanction of a withdrawal of badges for those who fail to cooperate with inquiries. The new rule was adopted in December 2016.
MEP Sven Giegold, financial and economic policy spokesperson of the Greens/EFA group commented:
“Caterpillar has to lose its entrance passes to the European Parliament for their refusal to answer questions on their tax avoidance to the public in today’s Parliamentary hearing. Shying away from the European Parliament’s public hearing on Caterpillar’s efforts in tax dumping will not keep such practises under wraps.
The European Parliament does not allow companies to tweak its nose. On our demand, Parliament adopted new rules to withdraw entrance passes of companies that fail to cooperate with Parliamentary inquiries. Parliament’s President Tajani and General Secretary Klaus Welle must implement those rules now for the first time.”
Green Plan that led to the new rule in Parliament: https://sven-giegold.de/2016/green-plan-for-transparency-and-integrity-in-the-european-parliament/
BACKGROUND: LETTER REQUESTING THE WITHDRAWAL OF BADGES
Dear President Tajani,
dear General Secretary Welle,
The Committee of Inquiry into Money Laundering, Tax Avoidance and Tax Evasion (PANA) invited Caterpillar Belgium SA to a hearing today. Thierry Hansen, Administrateur Délégué of Caterpillar Belgium SA, answered our invitation in his letter of 24 August 2017 to colleague Werner Langen, chairman of PANA, that he declines our invitation. His reasoning to decline is self-defeating and contradictory since he continues his letter with arguments on a number of points we would have liked to discuss with him in person.
Caterpillar is registered in the EU Transparency Register of Parliament and Commission. Mr Hansen is registered as person with legal responsibility for his company. When declining himself, he failed to point to anyone else who would be able to answer our questions. Such behaviour is an unacceptable ignorance towards Parliament.
For such a case, our Rules of Procedure as adopted on 13 December 2016, in rule 116a, state: “Without prejudice to the applicability of the general rules governing the withdrawal or temporary de-activation of long-term access badges, and unless there are significant arguments to the contrary, the Secretary-General shall, with the authorisation of the Quaestors, withdraw or de- activate a long-term access badge where its holder has been disbarred from the transparency register for a breach of the Code of Conduct for Registrants, has been guilty of a serious breach of the obligations laid down in this paragraph, or has refused, without offering a sufficient justification, to comply with a formal summons to attend a hearing or committee meeting or to cooperate with a committee of inquiry.”
Therefore, I would like to ask you to withdraw the two entrance badges that Caterpillar Belgium SA currently holds to enter the premises of the European Parliament.
Greens/EFA Coordinator in the PANA Committee
Rapporteur for Transparency, Accountability and Integrity in the EU Institutions
Rule 116a in the Parliament’s rules of procedure: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+RULES-EP+20170116+RULE-116-1+DOC+XML+V0//EN&language=EN&navigationBar=YES
Caterpillar in the transparency register: http://ec.europa.eu/transparencyregister/public/consultation/displaylobbyist.do?id=03717581957-02