The December 13 event at the Budapest Marriott Hotel was AmCham’s 29th annual general assembly, moved from its usual afternoon slot to the morning.
Dr. Bársony’s election as president was uncontested, perhaps an indication of how well received his tenure has been since he emerged victorious from a three-way race for the position in 2017, but he still had to get the approval of the meeting.
“Thank you for the trust you truly demonstrated in the last couple of years along the actions I made, we made as a board, we made as an organization,” he concluded. “Thanks for all the volunteer hours [you put in] in contributing to make our goals. Without your help, we would not be where we are today as the most prestigious organization of our business community and beyond.”
The other elections were far from one-horse races, however; there were four candidates for the second VP role, and 12 for the members at large. As the chamber’s CEO Írisz Lippai-Nagy said towards the end of the meeting, “In my time involved with AmCham, we have never had such a prestigious, big group of people as this, so many candidates.”
Kevin Murray, country head for Citibank Europe in Hungary and CEO of Citi Central Europe won a close fought contest for the second VP’s position. Banking is actually his second career: he is a decorated retired Lieutenant Colonel in the USAF. He has been with Citi for 32 years, during which time he has lived in six countries beyond the Unites States, and been on “ten boards, seven of which I have chaired”.
The victorious board members at large were: Ákos Burján (PwC Hungary, who also contested the second VP position); Ildikó Beck (Beck to Nature, LLC.); Dr. Dávid Kőhegyi (DLA Piper); Taira-Julia Lammi (ABB Kft.) and Zoltán Szabó (BT Regional Operations Center).
Burján, a tax partner, was reelected to the board. He told the assembly “I like living in Hungary, but I’d like to make it a better place, not just for us [business people], but these two little ones [his children] and your kids.” He particularly wants to see reform to the local business tax and the pharmaceutical tax.
Beck built a business in the United States out of a personal crisis (at one point she thought she would have 30 days to leave the country), importing coconut matrasses from Hungary. “Nuts?” She asked. “No, coconuts!” She added: “Today I have a plan, I have my nuts and I have my running shoes, and I hope to put them to work for AmCham.”
Kőhegyi built his presentation around a silent movie of his attempts to win support through making a video with a cute puppy, until his wife told him to remind voters of all his years’ involvement with AmCham.
Lammi (“Yes, I have a monstrous first name; even the Finns can’t get it!”) listed her watchwords as “Technology”, “Diversity” and “Influencing”. She said she represented diversity, being Finnish, a woman, an engineer, a leader and a mother of two teenagers. “My grey hair would show if I were not so blonde.”
Szabó, general manager of the BT ROC, said he was passionate about improving the country’s future. He told the assembly he had a friend who said he was the best skipper in the world, because he could not swim and so would never leave the boat. “I am a father of four children and will never leave this country.”
For the first time ever, the General Assembly elected a Supervisory Board responsible for protecting and promoting the interests of the Chamber and ensuring compliance of the management and operation of the Chamber with applicable laws, the Constitution and the By-Laws of the Chamber.
Dr. Andrea Jádi-Németh became the first Chair of the Supervisory Board while David Young was chosen to be the other member of the body.
By Laws Changes
After the elections, the Assembly discussed the new By-Laws proposals which contained points regarding A) the establishment of a Supervisory Board as required by the law B) changes to the rights of Honorary Members and C) some other adjustments.
The proposal, discussed as one package, did not receive the three-quarters supermajority required by the Civil Code for approval; consequently, AmCham still operates adhering to the By-Laws adopted on December 7, 2016, which does not regulate or include a Supervisory Board, thus it will not be compliant with the Civil Code regulations.
In December 2017, the previous General Assembly accepted By-Laws changes proposed by the Board, which would have extended the rights of Honorary Members to vote or fulfil positions in the Chamber; however, the Budapest Capital Regional Court rejected the proposals on the notion that the status of Honorary Members do not comply with applicable laws (see paragraph 4 section 5 of Act CLXXV./2011.).
For the 2018 Assembly, the Board, complying with the judge’s request, reverted the changes, therefore Honorary Members would not be able to vote or stand for Board election at the General Assembly. This proposition was challenged by those present and subsequently the By-Laws modifications did not receive the three-quarters supermajority vote required to approve a new rule of law.
The newly elected AmCham Board decided to call together another Assembly in early 2019, to present a revised By-Laws proposal and to approve the elected Supervisory Board. Consultations have begun to find a solution suitable for all impacted parties. Honorary members of the Chamber are invited to share their concerns and participate in the discussion.
The date of the new Assembly will be announced later and the new By-Laws proposals will be sent to the Membership 30 days prior to the upcoming Assembly.
Dr. Iván Völgyes Award
The XXIX. General Assembly also saw the presentation of the Dr. Iván Völgyes Award to recognize individuals who played an outstanding role in developing Hungarian-American business relations. In 2018, the Board of Directors unanimously decided to present the award to Dr. László Ábrahám, Managing Director of National Instruments Hungary, Chair of AmCham’s Electronic Manufacturers’ Committee and Dr. Gábor Orosz, Director, European Counsel of National Instruments Hungary and Chair of AmCham’s Regulatory Committee.
The Dr. Iván Völgyes Award was launched in 2005, and is named for the man dubbed the father of modern lobbying in Hungary. “Born in Hungary, he moved to the United States in 1956, where he worked on John F. Kennedy’s election campaign in 1959 and then followed him into the White House,” Lippai-Nagy said in introducing this year’s winners.
“Later, he became instrumental in bringing numerous U.S. based businesses to Hungary including the Gallup Organization and Reader's Digest. As the chief advisor to General Electric in Hungary, Mr. Völgyes also assisted in bringing six of GE's ten global core businesses, along with more than USD 1 billion in investment. Dr. Iván Völgyes lost his life in an airplane crash in June 2001.”
This year the award, presented for the tenth time, was shared by two stalwarts of AmCham: Dr. László Ábraham, head of the Electronic Manufacturers’ Committee, and Dr. Gábor Orosz, who chairs the Regulatory Committee. Both are from National Instruments Hungary, and Lippai-Nagy said the company, too, deserved thanks for supporting the two men in dedicating so much time to AmCham. “I know whenever I call either of them I can be assured I will have the most professional, proactive and helpful assistance,” she said.
“I did nothing else, I did just my job,” said a surprised Ábraham, the firm’s managing director. “When I finished university, my professor said to me: ‘László, it is not enough to lay the egg, you also have to make some noise around it.’ I think it is different today. I hear a lot of clucking, but I see very few eggs.”
Orosz, Associate General Counsel and Legal Director of EMEIA for National Instruments, said he was “humbled”. “If you are a lawyer, and you do not want to be in politics, how can you do your best for your country? That’s how we came together eight years ago to form the regulatory committee.”
Erika Sárközy, the widow of the late Dr. Völgyes, was also in the audience, and was presented with a bouquet by AmCham. “Thank you, everyone, for keeping alive Iván’s memory,” she told the assembly.
AmCham Foundation Report
Afterwards, Edit Bencsik, Member of the Board of Trustees of the AmCham Foundation provided a report on the highlights and achievements of 2018, and together with Chairman Péter Komáromi presented the Generosity Award to AVIS Budget Group, the Volunteer of the Year Awards to TATA Consultancy Services and Dóra Kalocsa from BT-ROC.
We would like to welcome the new AmCham Board
From left to right: Dr. Dávid Kőhegyi, CEO Írisz Lippai-Nagy, Taira-Julia Lammi, Ákos Burján, President Farkas Bársony, Edit Bencsik, Ildikó Beck, Secretary Treasurer Csaba László, Zoltán Szabó, First Vice President Péter Csucska and Second Vice President Kevin A. Murray.
(also Dr. Judit Zolnay, Board Member-at-Large, not pictured)
AmCham would like to thank Siegler Bird & Bird Law Office, our legal partner for supporting the Chamber and sponsoring the Assembly.