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KLP bales out of Marathon, Exxon over corruption

NORWAY – Norwegian life insurer Kommunal Landspensjonskasse, which provides funded public pension schemes for municipalities and regional authorities, says it will sell its shares in oil firms Marathon and Exxon.

The move follows a report from consulting firm GES Investment Services, which urged institutional investors to steer clear of three major US oil companies – Marathon, Exxon and Ameranda Hess - following allegations of corruption among the companies.

KLP said it would sell its shares in Marathon and Exxon from December 1. Exxon accounts for 1.4% of the equity index MSCI-World, which KLP uses as one of its investment benchmarks. KLP does not invest in Amerada Hess.

KLP spokesman Rolf Lasse Lund said that while it was true that bribes were common practice in some parts of the world, his firm wanted to send a message to Marathon and Exxon.

“We don’t think we’re making things impossible for the two companies. By excluding them, we are trying to effect a change in their ethical behaviour,” Lund said, adding that KLP would open a dialogue with them.

GES said the oil companies were currently being investigated on corruption charges by US justice authorities as well as the US Securities Exchange Commission.

Citing a report from a US Senate sub-committee, GES said the trio paid hundreds of millions dollars over several years to the president of Equatorial Guinea, his relatives and government officials in exchange for a share of the African country’s oil wealth.

As a result of the investigation, GES said it was recommending institutional investors to exclude the companies from their holdings. However, it also advised investors to engage in a dialogue with them to help change their policy towards Equatorial Guinea.

According to Henrik af Donner, marketing director at GES, the oil companies should follow the ethical example of their Anglo-Dutch peer Shell, which avoids countries which demand bribes in exchange for doing business.

“Yes, it’s true that in some parts of the world, bribes are part of the routine of doing business. But companies always have the choice to avoid these areas, as is demonstrated by the example of Shell,” said Donner.

In June KLP said its ethical investment requirement had produced results.

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