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IPE special report May 2018

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Norwegian fund bemoans lack of business ethics

NORWAY – The Norwegian Government Pension Fund has complained of a “fundamental lack of ethics” in the business community in which it invests.

“In recent years, there have been cases where the rights and financial interests of shareholders have been poorly protected or not protected at all,” Norges Bank, which runs the fund, wrote in a letter to the Ministry of Finance.

“These incidents seem to reflect that corporate management have based their decisions on short-term perspectives. Another common aspect has been the fundamental lack of ethics,” it added.

“Laws and rules have been violated and individuals have given priority to their own interests rather than to the interests of shareholders and the common good. Experience has made it clear that good corporate governance also includes an ethical dimension.”

The letter on governance in the fund, then known as the Petroleum Fund, was written in December and was only recently made available in English.

The central bank also noted that long-term investors’ interests “often have other interests than investors with a short-term horizon”.

It said it was interest of long-term investors “that rights are increasingly respected, that the environment is protected, that armed conflicts are terminated and that the political framework is optimal”.

So there was often “synergy between ethics and financial interests for an investor with a long-term investment horizon”.

Contact and cooperation with other institutional investors was “absolutely essential” to ensure influence in important matters. But ownership rights had to be exercised is manner that protected the fund’s international reputation.

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