The Group of Thirty (or G-30) describes itself as “a private, nonprofit, international body composed of very senior representatives of the private and public sectors and academia,” which “aims to deepen understanding of international economic and financial issues, to explore the international repercussions of decisions taken in the public and private sectors, and to examine the choices available to market practitioners and policymakers.”
Its membership consists of roughly thirty major figures in the global financial world, from central banks, academia, international institutions and major private financial institutions. These figures hold regular meetings, conduct research and produce highly-influential reports through various “working groups,” providing a forum for top policy makers and private sector market “actors” to meet and hold discussions, while helping shape consensus and give recommendations to policy makers on issues of finance and governance.
This institution, though not widely discussed, is enormously influential. And here’s why.
The history of the Group of Thirty goes back to the Rockefeller Foundation, which provided the organization’s initial funding. In its 1978 annual report, the Rockefeller Foundation – which represents the interests of highly centralized corporate and financial power – recalled that it was created in 1913 as a response to “the Populist assault on the massive concentration of wealth in the hands of few.” (Annual Report, 1978, Rockefeller Foundation.)
The 1978 report noted that a former managing director of the IMF, Johannes Witteveen, “agreed to assume the chairmanship of a Consultative Group on International Economic and Monetary Affairs made up of leading bankers, officials, economists, and businessmen from the developed and developing world.” The objective of this group, the report stated, was “to help analyze, through scholarly inquiry and international consultations, some of the vexing economic and monetary problems facing the world today, and to make their findings widely known.”
The Rockefeller Foundation expressed a keen interest in structuring the global economic and monetary issues of the day, noting that: “The international economic system is not functioning well – as evidenced by slow economic growth, persistent unemployment, and high inflation in many countries, growing skepticism about the capacity of floating exchange rates to correct imbalances of payments, increasing fears of protectionism, and relatively little progress in meeting the needs of developing countries and the quarter of the world’s population that is very poor.”
Thus, the Foundation laid the groundwork for what would come next, by continuing “to concentrate on international economic policy and made plans to bring together a group of experts who will explore the functioning of the international economic system. Beginning with the subject of international monetary problems, the group intends to clarify the issues, identify policy choices for governments, and assess the consequences of alternative policies and institutional arrangements.”
What emerged was the Group of Thirty, originally named the “Consultative Group on International Economic and Monetary Affairs,” which was to function as a think tank, lobby/industry group and, ultimately, a consensus-building institution for the global elites – to ensure that they stayed that way.
The 1979 annual report of the Rockefeller Foundation noted that the Group of Thirty “began an ambitious program of research, study group analyses, and plenary meetings for the purpose of seeking ways to improve the functioning of the international monetary system.” (Annual Report, 1979, Rockefeller Foundation.)
Fast forward more than three decades and the Group of Thirty remains a highly influential organization in matters of global financial governance. Members of the G-30 have included notable figures such as Josef Ackermann, Pedro Aspe, Alan Greenspan, Andrew Crockett, and the newly-anointed Chair of the Federal Reserve System, Janet Yellen.
The Association for Financial Professionals wrote in 2005 that, “over nearly the past three decades, one thing that has remained continuous in the hurly-burly changing landscape of international economics has been the influence of the Group of Thirty,” which it described as “something of a high-powered global economic think tank.”
Gerd Hausler, an official at the IMF and former Governor of the German Bundesbank, stated: “What makes the G30 unique is that it has very senior people there… It recruits members from the central banks and private companies [to get them] sitting together and mulling ideas at a high level.”
Geoffrey L Bell, who founded the organization at the invitation – and with the money – of the Rockefeller Foundation, commented, “The idea of ‘30’ was to have a good cross-section of people from around the world… but not so many that you couldn’t have a good discussion.”
In March of 2009, the Financial Times published a list of “the 50 people likely to be the most influential in shaping the world debate” on “tackling the many problems” of the global financial and economic crisis, “and charting a course through them to a new world order.”
The article noted that, “networks and institutions will matter as much as individuals,” and in particular it referenced the Group of Thirty as “one interesting connection between these players,” with 11 of the 50 individuals selected on the list being members of the G-30. Four years after the list was published, the number of its individuals who were also members of the G-30 increased to 14.
One of those is Jean-Claude Trichet, the former President of the European Central Bank and current Chairman of the Group of Thirty. Upon assuming his role as chairman in 2011, Trichet stated: “This is a time of exceptional challenges to the global economic and financial system, and the G30 will continue to make significant contributions to the policy debate and enhance understanding of the critical paths to stability and to economic growth.”
As Chairman of the G-30, Trichet also sits as the Honorary Governor of the Banque de France (the French central bank), which he used to direct from 1993 until 2003, when he became President of the European Central Bank (ECB), a position he held through 2011. Trichet was also previously a director of the French Treasury and the former chairman of the Paris Club, from 1985 to 1993. While he was President of the ECB, he also served as a member of the board of directors of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) and as president of the Global Economy Meeting of Central Bank Governors at the BIS from 2002 to 2011.
Today, Trichet holds a number of other highly influential positions. Apart from being Chairman of the G-30, he sits on the board of directors of the Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics, he is on the board of the European military contractor EADS, and he is chairman of the board for the influential European think tank BRUEGEL. Trichet is also, importantly, a member of the Group of Trustees in the global bank industry lobby known as the Institute of International Finance (IIF). He is additionally the European Chairman of the Trilateral Commission and is a member of the Steering Committee of the Bilderberg Meetings.
Jacob A. Frenkel, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Group of Thirty, is also a member of the Executive Committee of JPMorgan Chase, and Chairman of JPMorgan Chase International, while also sitting as a member on the International Council of the bank. Frenkel was the Vice Chairman of American International Group (AIG) from 2004 to 2009, during which time it received its mega-bailout from the Federal Government. He is also a past Chairman of Merrill Lynch International from 2000 to 2004.
Prior, Frenkel was the Governor of the Bank of Israel from 1991 to 2000; Economic Counselor and Director of Research at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) from 1987 to 1991; David Rockefeller Professor of International Economics at the University of Chicago from 1973 to 1987; former editor of the Journal of Political Economy; and previously a member of the International Advisory Board for the Council on Foreign Relations.
Currently, Frenkel is a member of the board of directors on the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), as well as a member of the Trilateral Commission and the International Advisory Council of the China Development Bank. He too sits on the board of the Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics, and is a member of the Economic Advisory Panel of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, as well as the Investment Advisory Council to the Prime Minister of Turkey. Frenkel is also on the board of directors for Loews Corporation.
This is but a brief introduction to the Group of Thirty, its members, and its influence, which will be elaborated upon in future installments of the Global Power Project. Stay tuned for the second part in the series next week.
• Article first published at Occupy.com