“Pantouflage” Becomes a Dialogue Across Political Parties

“Pantouflage” is the word used to describe when a former senior civil servant moves into the private sector.

This phenomenon raises ethical problems since the private and public spheres are becoming more and more mixed. In fact, many people who are doing this still have influence in politics, making it tempting to use government policy to promote their own company. There are two major risks of corruption raised by pantouflage. The first being the fact that a Minister or a public agent often give advantages to a sector or a company and negotiates in return a job position when his mandate expires. The second one is when a former government worker uses his old position or contacts to give advantages to his company.

Many former politicians are involved in lobbying until they gain another position within the government. The existence of lobbying groups in French political life is well known but almost universally despised. For the most part, French people cannot stand the fact that private interests are running public life. This is why pantouflage is such a prominent issue.

Committing pantouflage is now theoretically punished by law, but there are so many cases that it is very rare that the “pantoufleurs” are caught. There have been many scandals surrounding the issue; the biggest one being François Pérol. Pérol was Nicolas Sarkozy’s former General-Secretary. After he stepped down, he became the head of the Banque Populaire-Caisse D’Épargne Groupe (BPCE). This bank also received the largest amount of aid from the State during the crisis. Pérol was accused of having promoted BPCE but this is incredibly difficult to prove. At this point Pérol has not been convicted and maybe never be. The trial is still in progress.

In this case the focus is on a man from the Right but the phenomenon has been a major topic for every party across the political spectrum.

Francois Hollande made the concept a main campaign topic. In fact, he wrote in his book, Devoirs de vérité, “An unusual situation appeared where men and women coming from the high public functions have become not only bosses of companies but also very rich. Coming from a public service culture, they became new-rich persons, talking as masters to the politicians who appointed them.” Hollande made a point of honor to be sure that no Minister was a pantoufleur. In Ayrault’s government no Minister has previously held a position as a head of a company.

This being said, it is incredibly difficult to check the past of every government employee and there very well may be civil servants who hold positions other than that of Minister in the government hierarchy who have a glorious past in the private sector.

Comments

  1. It can be even worst than “pantouflage” … The wife of the industry minister has suddenly pass from TV journalist to director of a press magazine two month after the nomination of its husband. When you know that this magazine is possessed by a rich frenchman who also possess a major bank involved in the socialist finacement and company restructuring non under governement vigilance, you have the feeling that the world is indeed small for so much coincidences …

Trackbacks

  1. […] at PSA (i.e. Peugeot, Citroen), French unemployment and behaviour in Political Life and Pantourflage. However the issue everyone was waiting with expectation for President Hollande to comment on […]

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