Stakes rose dramatically today in Oslo as politicians thrashed out a response to the highly-controversial appointment of hedge fund billionaire Nicolai Tangen as the next head of the country’s sovereign wealth fund.
According to late-afternoon news reports in Norway, the cross-party Finance Committee is now asking Finance Minister Jan Tore Sanner to ensure that Norges Bank eliminates all risk of conflicts of interest if Tangen is to take over as head of the Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG) – as he is on track to do on 1 September.
Early today, a legal clarification apparently overturned the Finance Minister’s assumption that he could not intervene in the central bank’s decision on who to install as chief executive officer of the central bank arm which runs the GPFG, Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM).
Sanner said his department had asked the Ministry of Justice and Public Security’s Legislation Department on Wednesday for a statement on the legal right to instruct the executive board of Norges Bank on the appointment of NBIM’s CEO.
He published the main points from the summary he had received this morning, beginning: “The Central Bank Act § 2-13 probably entails certain restrictions on the Ministry’s right to instruct Norges Bank in the appointment of the general manager of NBIM.
“However, there are good indications that the Central Bank Act § 2-13 does not generally preclude the possibility of instructing Norges Bank’s executive board when appointing the general manager of NBIM.”
Sanner said the ministry had had limited time to familiarise itself with the statement.
Having quizzed Øystein Olsen, Norges Bank’s governor and chair of its executive board, and Julie Brodtkorb, the leader of Norges Bank’s supervisory council 11 days ago, the parliamentary Finance Committee met this afternoon to hammer out a joint statement on the multiple problems that surround Tangen’s appointment, which by late afternoon had been agreed but not yet published.
Sanner has said that if the statement was made public this afternoon, he would request a meeting with Norges Bank’s executive board today.
The legal opinion from the Legislation Department made public today is at odds with a legal opinion the ministry received on Tuesday from the private law firm Arntzen de Besche, which held that Sanner could not intervene in the appointment.
The leader of the Finance Committee, Labour Party member of parliament Hadia Tajik, commented earlier on today’s opinion from the Legislation Department, saying:
“They state what several of us have been saying all along – that the Finance Minister can have contact with Norges Bank about the appointment,” she told Norwegian news service E24.
A spokesman for Tajik confirmed the comments to IPE.
“The law department is a respected legal environment. Now they have suggested that there is the option to give general instructions. We need to draw up the terms for this,” she said.
Tajik said it was unfortunate that there had been uncertainty about this, with the ministry having contributed to this lack of clarity.