Are Shares in Companies Undue Influence?

I find it super important to have transparency and openness about potential undue influence on politicians. So I welcome any conversation and questions about this. The financial interests of politicians is part of this conversation. 

As uncomfortable as it is being quizzed on my personal finances and talking about them openly. This is the only way we can avoid undue influence – through transparency and openness.

For me, being transparent also makes me evermore aware of not being less critical of companies I have shares. I am actually more critical, because I do not want others to be able to interpret my actions or behaviour as being influenced. So I’d rather more be on the harsher side than not.

I am also economically privileged

A little bit of personal information, which is personal, so not something, I’ve shared this widely and openly before.

I was born with a gold spoon in my mouth. I’m economically privileged and I am aware of this privilege.

I was given a pre-inheritance gift of shares in a big Danish shipping (later also oil) company when I was a child. They were put in a blocked account until I was 21. The thought was they could provide me, my siblings and cousins a leg up for buying a house or a flat in the future. 

When my father and then my grandmother died, I inherited more shares in both the same shipping company and in a bunch of different traditional Danish companies, including a brewery, who for a couple of years sent out Christmas platters to shareholders, which prompted my father to buy more shares in this company.

What does having shares mean for your personal economy?

The shares are for me a financial security allowing me to take risks in life. One of these risks has been taking unpaid leave from my job to run as a political candidate in 2014 and quitting my job in january 2017 in part to focus more on politics. They are also unspecific “nest-eggs” for longer-term objective such as buying a home or investing in my own education.

Most of the shares pay out a yield to the shareholders on a yearly basis. How much changes from year to year and depends on how the company and the economy is doing. This money has provided me with a buffer and help with projects such as summer travels when I was a student. Or election campaigns and time off during these campaigns when I became a political candidate. 

Sometimes companies get taken over, and minority shareholders like myself get an offer we can’t refuse, and have to sell our shares at a set price.

Both the yields and the forced sale of shares have provided me with cash to reinvest over the years.

They mainly get paid out in the spring. I’ve never been very quick in doing so, as I liked having a buffer and also I first needed to find out how much more taxes I had to pay.

Trying to diversify my investments a bit, but not really trusting the advice of my bank, who mainly want to sell their financial products. And I haven’t had the time and energy to look into investment funds that are separate from my bank.

I invest in companies, I believe in, where I trust the company and their products. I try to put my money where my values are, but no companies are completely angels. And with a starting point in shipping and oil, it was never going to be a completely green and save the world portfolio.

Shares, investments and being a candidate/ elected?

When I became a candidate back in 2013, I declared on my website (in Danish), my financial interest, former jobs and memberships of organisations. This part of the website needs some updating, but since being elected I have made declarations on the EP website.

When I was elected, I considered if I should sell my shares, but the task of selling, figuring out taxes and the how and where to reinvest was daunting.  I also enjoy knowing exactly where my money is invested, and making my own mistakes rather than being tied up in weird financial products. 

On a general level, I also think shares should be vilified and I’d like more European citizens to invest more in shares.

During the summer of 2019, I visited Israel and Palestine, where I noticed Siemens were active in Israeli infrastructure in the West Bank, so I disinvested in Siemens and sold my shares.

In the summer of 2020, I had gotten an overview of my costs of settling in having two flats, one in Bruxelles and one in Copenhagen; and had gotten another set of yields from my shares in the springtime.

So in July, I invested in Zoom shares and in Apple shares. I had for about five years own Apple shares, which I think I lost some money on at the time when I sold them in 2016 and decided to cut my losses. In 2020, I reinvested in Apple shares. The company looked strong and I had been using the products, both phone, iTunes, applications and laptops increasingly since 2015.

I also invested in Zoom shares, after having used the platform since the lockdown and liked the interface.

In March 2021, I updated my declaration of financial interest to reflect the changes of my shares.

Follow the Money questions and interview

Follow the Money a Dutch investigative platform contacted me Monday with questions regarding my shares. 

I had a phone call Monday with Peter Teffer, and he is writing an article on the subject. Following the phone call I shared with him all my available bank’s investment reports concerning the recent transactions of shares.

Following our conversation Monday, I was asked why did you decide not to transfer the management of your shares to a third party during your EP mandate?

Because I did not and do not know how and who as a commercial player to trust with doing so. Following the questions, I will look into this further regarding future investments with banks and investment funds.

Peter Teffer, during the interview asked why I had not requested guidance from the Advisory Committee. I never believed my shares would be perceived as a conflict of interest in my work according to the rules of the parliament.

I will consult with the Advisory Committee regarding advice on owning or trading in shares personally or via a third party.

More information

You can find here the quarterly statements concerning transactions made by my bank from April 2018 and onwards. I will look into sharing all of the same documents that I shared with Peter Teffer, but these give a good overview.

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