EC `fat cat' may lose his new job

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MARTIN BANGEMANN, the outgoing German European commissioner who caused a storm over his plans to move to the private sector, could now lose his lucrative new job as well as being stripped of his pension rights.

As industry commissioner Mr Bangemann was in charge of telecommunications strategy. Last month he caused uproar over his decision to join the board of Telefonica, the Spanish telecoms company, on a reported salary of between pounds 600,000 and pounds 700,000 a year.

The company is delaying confirmation of Mr Bangemann's position on its board,and there is speculation that he is now being seen as a costly liability. One well-placed source said Telefonica's delay was the first step in extricating the company from its job offer.

After Mr Bangemann's move became public he gave an undertaking not to lobby any of the European institutions on behalf of his new employer. Inevitably that has reduced his value to the Spanish company.

Telefonica has recently been the subject of speculation about a possible merger with Deutsche Telekom, making Mr Bangemann's arrival more controversial still.

The loss of the post would be the final insult for Mr Bangemann, who faces action in the European Court of Justice tostrip him of his European pension entitlement, worth around pounds 60,000 a year.

Last weekend, the incoming European Commission President, Romano Prodi, published a code of conduct designed to prevent conflicts. In future those who join the private sector face a "cooling off" period after leaving office, during which any job offer can be scrutinised by a new committee. This has been nicknamed the "Bangemann clause".