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Barroso says EU "discriminating" over Goldman role

LONDON, Sept 13 (IFR) - Former European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso has accused the EU's executive arm of discriminating against Goldman Sachs by launching a probe into Barroso's decision to take a role at the US bank.

Barroso joined Goldman Sachs as a non-executive chairman in its international business in July, prompting an outcry about a potential conflict of interest. EU President Jean-Claude Juncker last weekend launched an ethics investigation into whether Barroso, his predecessor, had broken EU law.

Barroso responded in a letter, saying the Commission is being discriminatory.

"It has been claimed that the mere fact of working with Goldman Sachs raises questions of integrity," Barroso wrote in the letter, some of the contents of which have been seen by IFR.

"Whilst I respect that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, the rules are clear and they must be respected. These claims are baseless and wholly unmerited. They are discriminatory against me and against Goldman Sachs," Barroso said.

Juncker has formally asked Barroso to clarify his role at Goldman. An ad hoc ethical committee, consisting of an independent panel of former senior EU figures, including a judge and a member of parliament, would review the case.

The Commission has previously said Barroso did not appear to be in breach of its code of conduct as he had retired from his EU role for more than the required 18 months.

More than 140,000 people have signed an online petition started by EU staff calling for "exemplary measures" to be taken against Barroso for behaviour that has dishonoured the European civil service and EU.

Barroso served as EC president from 2004 to 2014, and was prime minister of Portugal from 2002 to 2004.

But he is not alone in taking a job in financial services. Banks and investment firms have more than 30 advisers who in the past were senior politicians or central bankers, including former leaders of the UK, Mexico, Australia and Sweden, according to analysis by IFR.

They include former EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson and former EU anti-trust chief Neelie Kroes.

Barroso said in his letter he would be concerned "if a decision about my status has already been made".

He added: "If that is the case, I would like to understand how this decision has been taken, by whom and on what grounds. Not only are these actions discriminatory but they appear to be inconsistent with decisions taken in respect of other former members of the Commission." (Reporting by Steve Slater)

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