Sigmar Gabriel, Angela Merkel’s vice-chancellor during Germany’s previous coalition government has defended his decision to join the supervisory board of Deutsche Bank.
“I think it is bad that when one takes an economy job after the end of his political career, there is a widespread suspicion that he has sold his soul,” the former chairman of the Social Democratic Party told German newspaper Bild on Sunday. He said he would not be or act any differently than he has in the past.
“Deutsche Bank, as one of the most important financial institutions in Europe, has the opportunity and the responsibility to help shape the future of the German and European economy,” Gabriel said in a statement last week. “I want to play a part in this.”
Gabriel, 60, was vice chancellor of Germany from 2013-2018 and has also served as foreign minister and economics minister. Deutsche Bank shareholders will vote on his nomination at their meeting in May.
Politicians from the right and left of the spectrum accused Gabriel of sending the “wrong signal” by joining the scandal-battered German lender, which is in the midst of a massive restructuring, which includes cutting about 18,000 jobs.
In his interview with Bild, Gabriel posed the question of what jobs former politicians were actually allowed to do after they quit politics: “They shouldn't be getting early pensions, they shouldn't be lobbyists, and they shouldn't be going into business. What then?”
The announcement that Gabriel was heading to the bank ended months of speculation about his post-political career. He had been widely tipped to become the new boss of the German Automobile Association.
Gabriel is not the first high-ranking politician to attract criticism for his next career move after leaving the government in Berlin. Former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is a close friend of Russian president Vladimir Putin, and provoked an outcry when he was appointed as chairman of the board of Rosneft, Russia’s state-controlled oil company, in 2017.