The Malta Financial Services Authority has spent over €160,000 on sponsored content and public relations locally and internationally since 2020, according to data presented in parliament.
Nationalist Party MP Jerome Caruana Cilia asked Finance Minister Clyde Caruana for information on how much the authority responsible for regulating banking, insurance, investments, pensions, and securities spent on marketing and similar activities.
The data tabled by Caruana detailed almost €100,000 on local media and public relations companies and more than €60,000 internationally.
The Shift analysed the data and found that since 2020, the company behind Malta Today received the largest share, almost €30,000 for subscriptions, advertising, sponsored editorial content, and consumer awareness campaigns.
The company behind Times of Malta was paid some €17,000 while payments to The Independent and Lovin Malta totalled around €12,000 each.
Local news portals received some €78,000 in total, with around €8,000 spent on radio advertising and €6,000 on television advertising.
Approximately €4,000 was paid to local public relations companies.
PBS, the public broadcaster, received most of the TV advertising payments, including TV appearances. Party media stations One and Net did not receive payments from the financial regulator, save for a single €120 Net subscription.
Over the same timeframe, the regulator spent more than €65,000 with foreign news portals.
Some €35,000 was spent on subscriptions, €10,000 was paid to the Indian-Canadian defence and geopolitics newspaper Eurasian in 2020 for interviews, and another €21,000 went to The Economist and included sponsored “consumer awareness” advertising.
The MFSA’s expenditure on PR coincided with mismanagement, scandals, revolving door conflicts and the Financial Action Task Force greylisting between June 2021 and June 2022.
The scandals included the 2020 resignation of former MFSA CEO Joseph Cuschieri following revelations of conflicts of interest with Yorgen Fenech, accused of involvement in Daphna Caruana Galizia’s assassination.
Many of the financial regulator’s top officials, handpicked by the disgraced Cuschieri, retain their positions despite multiple recruitment irregularities.
Apart from the media spending, Cuschieri, a member of disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat’s inner circle, donated hundreds of thousands of euros from MFSA to the Marigold Foundation, chaired by Muscat’s wife, Michelle.
The Shift also reported how current MFSA CEO Kenneth Farrugia was handpicked for the job without a public call and was placed on an indefinite contract of around €175,000 a year, making him one of the highest-paid public sector employees.