Thursday, December 23, 2010

Pension Fund chief was skeptical of the Code
Pension Fund chief was skeptical of the Code
The ethical guidelines meant that the oil fund pulled out of a number of U.S. companies. The oil fund manager Knut Kjær and a key bureaucrat in the Treasury Department was skeptical of the rules.

Several meetings between the Ministry of Finance, Government Pension Fund (Pension Fund) and the American Embassy in Oslo shows that the forces both in the Oil Fund and the Finance Ministry was skeptical of the ethical guidelines for the giant Norwegian fund.
It shows a series of Wikileaks documents Aftenposten have access to.
Norwegian authorities met resistance from the U.S. Embassy and from U.S. companies after the ethical guidelines for the Fund was introduced in 2004.
Many of the Petroleum Fund withdrew from the U.S.. Among them was Wal-Mart, one of the world's largest companies.
Skeptical Director
The documents indicate that the director of the Pension Fund, Knut Kjaer, was skeptical of the ethics rules.
In a meeting between Kjær and the U.S. ambassador, Benson K. Whitney, in March 2006, the ambassador have indicated that Norway was on the slippery slope when U.S. companies were branded as unethical.
He also problematised that Norway on the one side would secure contracts for the Joint Strike Fighter from Lockheed Martin, who was banned from the oil fund on ethical grounds.
"Personally, high threshold"
According to a report Whitney sent home to Washington 31 March, will Kjær have stated that he had "mixed feelings about the ethical guidelines. He noted that the bank would have such a large investment universe as possible. "
Kjær will still have made it clear that there was broad consensus in Norway to withdraw from several companies, that this was legal and that it was acceptable not to want to support companies such as produced cluster munitions.
Nevertheless, it is stated in the minutes that Kjær stated that he "personally preferred a high threshold [for the ban, journ.anm.], Especially since it was difficult borderline cases."
Kjær was head of Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM) which is the department of Norges Bank, which manages the Petroleum Fund since 1998. He retired in 2007.
He thinks the U.S. ambassador's summary is quite unproblematic.
- I note that he has no inside information. This sounds like a report from a public debate that was open at the time. There was an extensive investigation as the basis for the Ministry introduced guidelines in 2004, and as Norway's bank enforced. This is an area where there has been broad agreement, but there have been individual cases where there have been discussions about the right strategy, corporate governance or to withdraw, "said Dear, who points out that he felt pressure from the ambassador but that there was an exchange of views .
Guidelines as a political tool
Director Martin Skancke in the Ministry of Finance should also have been very skeptical of the ethical guidelines. In a letter from the ambassador to Washington on May 7 November 2007, Skancke should have said that "Norway's application of the Code of Conduct, which has hit U.S. companies hard, is not ideal."
In another report to Washington, the 31 January 2008 ambassador writes that the coalition government has brought several changes, including used oil fund's ethical guidelines as a political tool.
The ambassador was openly criticized abroad and Norway when the company Wal-Mart was blacklisted. His attitude can also be found in the Wikileaks documents.
"Black List was based on superficial reading," states, for example, in a statement on 3 April 2007. This is a perception Kjær do not share.
- Looking at the website of the ethics council, you will find page after page of documentation that formed the basis for the fund pulled out of Wal-Mart, "he said.
Read more of Foreign Affairs from Aftenposten here