April 22, 2024

Science: Economists debate Grimm's position on the supervisory board

It has been less than four years since the Economic Development Evaluation Advisory Council welcomed two women into its illustrious circle. Monika Schnitzer, a professor from Munich and the older, more experienced and more decorated of the two women, was appointed two years later as the first president of the “Wirtschaftsweise”, one of the most important advisory bodies. Federal government. But one person in particular is making headlines: Veronica Grimm.

There is now an open dispute between Grimm, Schnitzer, and the other three members of the advisory board, Achim Tröger, Ulrike Malmendier, and Martin Werding. Grimm, an expert in the field of energy policy, wants to take over the mandate of the supervisory board of the energy company Siemens Energy next week.

The other four economists see this as a conflict of interest and are calling on Grimm to give up the mandate At Siemens energy or give up her position in the Shura Council. The upcoming energy transition is of “major economic policy importance.” Therefore, Veronica Grimm's experience is of great value to the Council's work. In addition, public awareness of compliance issues has increased.

For the first time there are dissonances due to the mandate of the Supervisory Board

This procedure is new for the committee. Individual members had previously held supervisory positions in German securities companies. But there was no general dissonance about it. “I have checked this matter in advance, and the legal situation is clear,” Grimm told the German news agency. Colleagues on the Council were immediately informed.

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The committee is said to have initially written to the chairman of Siemens Energy's supervisory board, Joe Kaeser. Later, an email reached Grimm asking him to surrender – with a copy addressed to Federal Minister Christian Lindner (Free Democratic Party, Finance), Robert Habeck (Greens, Economy) and Chancellor Wolfgang Schmidt (SPD). It was first reported by Handelsblatt newspaper.

In fact, there are different opinions about how the position of the Supervisory Board at Siemens Energy is compatible with working for economists. Lobbycontrol sees a conflict of interest. The association stressed that “anyone advising the federal government on macroeconomic issues should not be paid by a large corporation and participate in its committees.”

The opposition sees an attack on critical economists

Compliance expert Professor Christian Stringer also considers Grimm's election to the Supervisory Board a problem. Caesar As chairman of the supervisory board of Siemens Energy, he had to clarify whether the planned appointment would pose a risk of conflict of interest, he told the newspaper “Wilt” some time ago. The company is backed by the federal government, which Grimm, among others, advises, with a guarantee worth billions — which, according to Grimm's critics, does not ease the situation.

But support comes from the Free Democratic Party and the Union. “It is treacherous to build a conflict of interest out of the mandate of Ms. Grimm’s supervisory board at Siemens Energy,” said the economic policy spokesman for the FDP parliamentary group, Reinhard Huben. This process has the potential to irreparably damage the reputation of the Council of Economists and its members. His colleague Julia Klöckner from the CDU-CSU parliamentary group went further: “It seems as if they want to get rid of the critical voice, including the voice from the government side, because Professor Grimm is not in class.”

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Minister of Economic Affairs Robert Habeck Al-Khader said that the Shura Council is an independent body. He did not want to comment specifically on Grimm's case. In general, Habeck said that the law does not provide exclusion rules in the event of a conflict of interest, but such a conflict should nevertheless be avoided. The Advisory Board will be smart enough to resolve conflicts of interest.

A lucrative position for a well-known professor

According to current regulations, a member of the full supervisory board of Siemens Energy receives a basic salary of 120 thousand euros per year, plus attendance fees and, if necessary, compensation for committee work, which can amount to another tens of thousands of euros.

Grimm differs from the other members of the panel of economists in that he has a large public presence. A sought-after conversation partner on numerous talk shows, and clearly able to speak on almost all topics related to Germany's economy, Grimm has become something of the face of economic experts in recent years — but without becoming president. Schnitzer clearly failed public perception. Additionally, Grimm is known for not mincing words.

In the past, contrary to the federal government's line, it spoke out in favor of continuing to operate German nuclear power plants that were still active at the time for several years. She is skeptical about the prospect of easing the debt brake, and has relied on the federal government for climate money. On the other hand, hydrogen expert Grimm is also open about environmental and climate protection issues.

On the other hand, Schnitzer has recently faced repeated criticism from the union, for example when he proposed abolishing the widow's pension. In contrast to the FDP's position, it pushed for reform of the debt brake system.

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Grimm recently made headlines when she announced her move from her traditional university, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen, to the newly founded TU Nuremberg – Grimm is one of the participants in the prestigious project in the birthplace of Bavaria Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU). The first female professors.

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