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06.06.15

EPO Officially Confirms That It Specifically Hired Control Risks Group (CRG) to Spy on Journalists and Their Sources

Posted in Europe, Patents at 5:27 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

FAZ (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) article
Previous article from the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, regarding Benoît Battistelli and EPO suicides

Summary: The European Patent Office (EPO) acknowledges when asked by the German media that it has hired a military-connected privatised spying giant

WE NOW know that it was John Martin’s department which made the decision to relay taxpayers’ money to notorious London-based spies (attacking journalism). British embezzlement? This funneling of funds should prove controversial at the very least. The EPO is now bullying critics, including the media.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung wrote about the EPO before. It again mentioned the latest scandal the other day. Now we have the collection of translations [PDF]. Here it is in English:

Crisis management experts are snooping around the EPO

The European Patent Office has hired the private “global risk consultants” Control Risks to deal with allegations of mobbing. At the same time, it is the process of conducting talks with staff unions aimed at restoring “social peace”.

Munich, 1st June 2015. For a number of weeks now, opposing parties at the European Patent Office (EPO) in Munich have attempted to engage in a “social dialogue”.

On the one hand, there is the EPO President Benoît Battistelli, a Frenchman who is said to be characterised by an autocratic leadership style; on the other hand, there are the staff union officials who hope to finally achieve recognition within the European organization which has 38 member states and enjoys immunity due to its supranational character.

In April, Battistelli and the Administrative Council of the EPO met with staff members represented by the Staff Union (IGEPA/SUEPO). After initially breaking the ice, they agreed to continue talks in order to arrive at a consensus (as reported in the FAZ on 25 April).

But storm clouds appear to be gathering on the horizon again. Shortly after this historical meeting which ended on such a hopeful note, some strangers called at the Patent Office beside the Isar and started to take a closer look. These were representatives of a British company called Control Risks Group (CRG). Control Risks is a privately held company which describes itself as “a global risk consultancy”. It offers advice on economic risks and assists companies, organisations and governments with the analysis of political risks and security solutions and supports managements in the elimination of operational risks. CRG is supposed to help the Internal Audit department of the EPO with the investigation of allegations of mobbing.

The services of these British experts are also very much in demand in situations such as those encountered in Third World countries which involve dealing with problems that cannot be easily resolved using conventional means. Control Risks has even made a name for itself in Germany. It is said to be the company that allegedly spied on journalists on behalf of Deutsche Telekom in order to identify contact persons inside the company who were involved in leaking information to external parties.

“The selection of CRG by the competent department was made in the course of a procurement procedure,” said a spokesman for the EPO. The competent department was the Internal Audit and Oversight department of the EPO whose Director is Mr. John Martin.

It was confirmed that only this department and not the President was involved in the decision. As part of the reforms introduced by Battistelli who assumed office in 2010, an internal investigation unit which operates in a substantially independent manner to protect its staff was established [as part of the Internal Audit and Oversight department].

In 2014, the Internal Audit department dealt with 68 complaints, for example cases involving mobbing, bullying, employment law violations or other misconduct by staff out of a workforce of 4,300 employees.

Although the number of complaints declined by 23 percent compared to 2013, Mr. Martin justified the move [to hire external investigators] as follows: “Because the EPO Investigative Unit is rather small in terms of staffing, we need to be able to contract external companies to support our fact-finding enquiries.”

However, the fact that it was Control Risks which was selected has – to put it mildlycaused “indigestion” in some quarters inside the EPO. It is referred to as an “unfortunate choice”. And the targeting of staff representatives as the subject of investigations into mobbing allegations is hardly considered to be conducive to a good atmosphere for talks between the President and staff unions.

According to what can be heard from staff, the overall effect of these developments is undermine the efforts to establish a social dialogue. On the other hand, the EPO tries to emphasise that, strictly speaking, the investigations into staff complaints are not connected with the current process of dialogue. And it was keen to point out that the second round of talks with Battistelli, the Chairman of the Administrative Council, Jesper Kongstad and staff unions SUEPO (Munich) and FFPE-EPO (representing the branch at The Hague) had not suffered any unsustainable damage last Thursday. The topic of surveillance did indeed come up on the agenda according to reports but the sense of outrage remained within bounds unlike the demonstrations in recent years against the President’s reform plans which by EPO standards were perceived as radical.

The goal remains to lay the foundations by September for an agreement according to which the trade unions will not only be formally recognized as representatives of staff at the EPO. They also want to be involved in the reform processes such as those relating to a performance-based reporting system for employees and the oversight of sick leave and other absences which are conspicuously high at the EPO. As these reform measures have already been introduced, the staff representatives doubt whether Battistelli is really serious about achieving a social consensus. Against this background, the timetable which has been set seems ambitious – and the decision to hire experienced “crisis management assistance” counterproductive.

We have a lot more coming about Control Risks, including their role in spying on Techrights.

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