INTERVIEW: Peter-Carlo Lehrell, Global Chairman of FIPRA International
Peter-Carlo Lehrell, Global Chairman of the Fipra International and one of our panelists at the 2016 Weekend Media Festival, talks about why global corporations hire government relations specialists to deal with complex regulatory and policy issues, how a typical lobbying campaign works through the example of the Vodafone’s 125billion Sterling takeover of Mannesmann, and what are the biggest challenges the industry is facing today.
You are Chairman of FIPRA, a public affairs network that originated in Europe yet operates globally in over 50 countries both in Europe and Internationally. What is the business model under which this sizeable network operates, given its transnational character and challenges that go along with it?
Our model values the independence of each consultant. It is well known that independent people who choose to work, or even just o research together, make for a stronger and more flexible team than many other variants. We are all professionals at understanding one thing: namely political process or, put simply, “how politics works”. To gather independent people of the highest caliber what truly understand politics can only be done if you find a way to get them to work towards the common goals of our clients. The chances are that little really surprises a network when people pool experiences.
Why do companies hire Public Affairs (PA) advisers?
I prefer to call it Government Relations advisers which perhaps explains what we do a little better. Politicians, authorities, and regulators attempt to reconcile competing interests. The better they understand the issues, the better able they are to reconcile these interests, the better the reconciliation, the better the political process works to the benefit of all. The task of each interest involved is to inform decision-makers of the relevant issues and to put their case before them on its merits. In doing so, a given interest must be able to distill the nature of its issues and concerns, and communicate them appropriately. Companies hire government relations consultants to assist them to put their case appropriately and effectively to public policy makers and regulators. To do so well, the consultant must be an expert in the political and institutional process, understand the nature of the issues and concerns of the interest he or she represents, and the time and resource constraints on political and public institutions. A good GR professional is a source of accurate and current information, who recognises different points of view, and who, therefore, assists in the reconciliation of different interest.
Which lobbying campaign you are most proud of and why?
There are many, but often it is work done may years ago that stand out most: I was the adviser at a very high level to the buyer in the first ever hostile public takeover in Germany in 2000. This was Vodafone’s 125billion Sterling takeover of a company called Mannesmann. With hindsight it was a hugely well run and funded policy campaign that had a successful outcome, so we can be very proud of it and to some extent I founded my business on this success. The lawyers on the project will claim that they thought of the so-called “roaming remedy” which made early regulatory approval possible. I would say with some pride that perhaps I gave hem the idea. The other thing we were able to do is to keep control during the entire campaign – that is not always the case. The thing was massive – but fun every step of the way – at least for me! You can be proud of anything that you have enjoyed doing.
What are the biggest challenges the PA industry is facing nowadays?
That is easy: to facilitate a healthy political process, the industry’s challenge is that it is the political institutions that need to wake up to the fact that they must do everything to
- ensure reasonable access to those representing any interest, providing that the nature of the interest is properly identified;
- ensure a fair hearing for any interest, where the input is timely, relevant and courteous both to individuals and to the rules of the institution;
- foster an environment where government relations activity can thrive where is based on high standards of research, analysis, presentation and a knowledge of the political process.
The challenge is to remove any fear of debate that our profession will inevitably bring to the table. Instead it should be encouraged as it is in the public interest.
Peter-Carlo founded Fipra April 2000. From its European base, Fipra continues to expand its truly global network now present on all continents. Today Peter-Carlo serves part-time as Chairman of the world-wide Fipra Network with additional responsibility for new business development. Peter-Carlo has advised some of the world’s largest and most successful companies, not only on their general public affairs, but also in his specialised area of anti-trust policy on some of the largest monopoly cases and merger & acquisition transactions in recent years. Following an education at Harrow School and Durham University in England, before his career at Fipra, Peter-Carlo worked at the European Parliament, then in finance, insurance and consulting roles, always in functions close to government relations. Along with his native German, Peter-Carlo is fluent in French, Italian and English.