Volkswagen in top 10 list of biggest companies lobbying EU

T(rusty) VW, Picture by Blackwood XL,
October 29th, 2015
by Vicky Cann

Much has been written about Volkswagen and its EU lobby influence since the emissions scandal broke a month or so ago. The lobby data analysis tool LobbyFacts provides further detail on the German car maker's activities in Brussels.

The basic facts about VW's lobbying operations are known from its EU lobby transparency register entry. In 2014, the company recorded a lobby expenditure of €3,300,000 and 43 lobbyists or the equivalent of 18 full time staff. This seems plausible.

The LobbyFacts archive, a snapshot of the contents of the EU lobbytransparency register on 27 January 2015, shows that VW previously declared €1,000,000 - €1,250,000 in 2013, with four lobbyists. LobbyFacts will soon feature previous versions of the lobby register so that visitors can explore how spending by specific organisations has changed over time. A look at the historical data for VW shows that both spending and the number of lobbyists employed have massively increased since 2010. At the start of the decade, VW declared only a quarter of its 2014 spending (€800,000), while 2013 spending still only reached just over half-way (€1,250,000). We can expect 2015 to be even higher – reputational management doesn't come cheap in the Brussels Bubble (notwithstanding this week's news of VW's first quarterly loss in 15 years).

And LobbyFacts tells us more.

The ranking of companies by lobby spend sees Volkswagen listed as the 22nd biggest company spender on EU lobbying.

But in fact, once that list is cleaned of erroneous entries (too many companies give a far higher lobby spend than is likely considering the nature of the companies or the number of lobbyists they declare; they may be mistakenly declaring their total turnover rather than lobby expenditure) VW features in the top 10, at number 7:

Company name Country head office Lobbying costs declared
ExxonMobil Petroleum & Chemical Belgium 4,750,000 - 4,999,999 €
Microsoft Corporation United States 4,500,000 - 4,749,000 €
Shell Companies Netherlands 4,500,000 - 4,749,000 €
Deutsche Bank AG Germany 3,969,000 €
Dow Europe GmbH Switzerland 3,750,000 - 3,999,999 €
Google United States 3,500,000 - 3,749,000 €
Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft Germany 3,300,000 €
General Electric Company United States 3,250,000 - 3,499,999 €
Siemens AG Germany 3,230,169 €
Huawei Technologies China 3,000,000 €

Of all German companies lobbying the EU as recorded in the register, VW was outspent only by Deutsche Bank, with Siemens a close third.

And in the ranking of companies, sorted by the number of full-time equivalent lobbyists, a cleaned up list (again removing those entries which obviously over-declare their lobbyist numbers) would see it right at the top of the list, rather than number 22, as the official data would have it.

Company name EP Passes Lobbyists (persons) Lobbyists (FTEs Country head office
Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft 4 43 18 Germany
Dods Group PLC 16 16 15.5 United Kingdom
Bayer AG 8 15 15 Germany
Siemens AG 9 21 14.75 Germany
BASF SE 9 20 12.5 Germany
EDP - Energias de Portugal, SA 1 50 12.5 Portugal
E.ON SE 2 29 11 Germany
Airbus Group N.V. 11 10 10 Netherlands
DeHavilland Information Services Limited 3 17 10 United Kingdom

LobbyFacts rankings give a sense of how an organisation's lobby spend compares with others and provide further insight into an organisation's activities in Brussels. But it is important to remember that, as Transparency International recently reported, one half of all EU lobby register entries are “inaccurate, incomplete or meaningless”. To clean-up the above lists, we had to discard a large proportion of entries which were obviously wrong. All in all, the register's data must be taken with a rather large pinch of salt.

All figures correct as of 28 October 2015.