Billionaire to chair new ethics council for giant Norwegian government fund

Government names investor and industrialist Andresen to head panel

Billionaire investor and industrialist Johan H. Andresen has been named to chair the new Council on Ethics that will advise the Norwegian Government Pension Fund.

Andresen, whose family wealth derives from tobacco firm Tiedemanns (now British American Tobacco Norway), heads Norway’s industrial and financial group Ferd, which besides its commercial activities is also involved in social entrepreneurship. Ferd has interests in hedge funds, private equity and real estate.

Andresen’s term lasts until May 31 2019. The other members of the panel are Hans Christian Bugge (Vice Chair), Cecilie Hellestveit, Arthur Sletteberg and Guro Slettemark. Bugge is Professor of Environmental Law at the University of Oslo, Hellestveit is a lawyer, Sletteberg is CEO at Norwegian Microfinance Initiative and Slettemark is Secretary General of Transparency International Norway.

The new panel replaces the former Council on Ethics that has been chaired by Oslo University Professor Ola Mestad since 2010. The council was formed in 2004.

In future, in line with recommendations put forward by a strategy group headed by UK academic Elroy Dimson in November 2013, Norges Bank Investment Management, the arm of the central bank which runs the fund’s assets, itself will decide on observation and exclusion ofcompanies from the Fund, instead of the Ministry of Finance. So, the Ethics Council will now advise Norges Bank and not the government. The government is stressing that the fund’s ethical investment criteria are unchanged and will continue to be determined by politicians.

“I would like to thank the current Council on Ethics for their important efforts and wish the new Council good luck in their work. The composition of the new Council ensures that the Council on Ethics will continue to have the appropriate and broad expertise to carry out their assignment in a good way,” said Minister of Finance Siv Jensen.

The Ministry of Finance has also issued new guidelines for observation and exclusion, taking effect from January 1 2015, to facilitate “better interaction between active ownership and the exclusion mechanism”.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Finance has also announced a consultation on the recent report from the Expert Group on the giant fund’s fossil fuel investments that was headed by Principles for Responsible Investment Chair Martin Skancke.

Both the report and the consultation will feed into a White Paper to Parliament on the Management of the Government Pension Fund in spring 2015.