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Ex US secretary of state Albright hired for Norway fund ethics review

Review of controversial divestment policy scheduled to conclude this summer.

The consultancy group created by former US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, has been hired by the Norwegian state to help it review the ethical investment policy of the €250bn ($366bn) government pension fund.
The Washington DC-based Albright Group is working with Simon Chesterman, global professor and director at the New York University School of Law Singapore programme, to examine issues including the effectiveness of the Norwegian fund’s high-profile divestment strategy and its engagement procedures with the 7000 companies it invests in.
The review, which will start in the spring is expected to conclude by the summer. The Norwegian fund’s controversial divestment policy has led it to publicly boycott investments in 25 companies, the majority for activities related to nuclear weapons and armaments including cluster bombs. Other companies have been blacklisted for complicity in child labour. The fund’s highest profile exclusion was Walmart, the US supermarket giant, which in 2006 was banned over child-labour violations by its suppliers in the developing world as well as obstructing union representation for its workers in the US. The fund sold off more than $400million worth of Walmart shares. At the time, the decision provoked sharp criticism from Benson Whitney, US Ambassador to Norway, who accused the fund of a “national judgment of the ethics of these companies,” and took up the issue with the Norwegian government.
Last week, the Norwegian Government Pension Fund added GenCorp, the US aerospace and defence company to its blacklist along with Serco Group, the UK service engineering company and Hanwha Corporation, a South Korean chemicals company.
The Albright Group, which includes Madeleine Albright as one of its directors, is a strategic consultancy firm.
It describes itself as: “a unique team of international negotiators and seasoned diplomats, including two former Presidential Cabinet members.”
In 2005, Albright created Albright Capital Management, a specialist emerging markets fund manager, which she chairs. Many of the Albright Group’s directors also sit on the board of the fund management company. Albright’s fund management clients include PGGM, the Dutch healthcare workers fund, which invested $329m (€250m) in an emerging global markets mandate in January, 2007.