Norway’s sovereign wealth fund has hailed the benefits of litigation abroad to drive its corporate governance agenda. Closer to home, victory in an Oslo employment case may have rung decidedly hollow for Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM).

Elisabeth Bull Daae, head of trading analytics, sought millions in compensation for, inter alia, years of alleged gender pay discrimination. In the hearing NBIM had to stomach the public cross examination of CIO Nicolai Tangen and other top staff, and the airing of embarrassing details of interactions at its sleek Oslo HQ.

The three judges acquitted NBIM on all counts though, saying it had proved that salaries were based on gender-neutral criteria, and rejected Bull Daae’s comparison with higher-paid male colleagues on the grounds those roles involved investment responsibility.

The effort and responsibility of jobs involving investment decisions meant they should be better paid, they said, citing NBIM’s argument this was the norm in asset management.

There was no pay discrimination on the basis of gender at NBIM, Tangen insisted in the courtroom in May. However, NBIM does say in its annual report that men are overrepresented among staff with investment responsibility – citing that imbalance as a factor behind its overall gender pay gap.

One judge cast doubt on whether NBIM should ape industry practices on remuneration, saying the institution had a different public interest from private asset managers, with “a special responsibility when it comes to ensuring equal pay”.

NBIM has already said it will “find learning where it can” from the verdict – and as for Bull Daae, her lawyer has yet to rule out an appeal.

Rachel Fixsen, Nordic Correspondent