The Petroleum Fund intensifies the work on Corporate Governance
Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM) is developing capacity and expertise to safeguard the ownership role of the Government Petroleum Fund and the Bank's foreign exchange reserves. A special group is being established in equity management that reinforces the already existing functions relating to the exercise of ownership rights. Henrik Syse has been appointed to head the group. In addition to Mr. Syse and the current staff, three new employees have been appointed and two experts will provide affiliate services.
NBIM's work on exercising its voting rights has been substantially increased since the work began in 2003. It will now be possible to vote at the general meetings of the vast majority of the 3 200 companies in the portfolios. At the same time, the Bank has taken over the exercise of voting rights from all external portfolio managers.
In the latter half of 2004, the Ministry of Finance laid down new guidelines for Norges Bank's exercise of ownership rights. The exercise of ownership rights is one of the instruments associated with the introduction of ethical criteria in the Bank's investment management. The overriding objective shall be to safeguard the Petroleum Fund's financial interests, and particular emphasis will be placed on the Fund's strategy of maintaining a long-term and highly diversified investment fund.
"We think we can achieve a higher return in the future by now systematically determining the requirements that should apply to corporate boards and management, and which can gain the support of other owners. Common to many such requirements are attitudes to corporate ethics and ethics in a more general sense," says the Executive Director of NBIM, Knut N. Kjær, and continues: "Henrik Syse is a highly competent person with expertise in ethics and a talent for innovation. I am very pleased that he has agreed to head this group in its initial phase while we are devising our strategy for the exercise of ownership rights."
"I am taking up this post with a sense of keen anticipation," says Henrik Syse. "I am primarily an ethicist and philosopher, rather than an economist or financial analyst, but I will be working in an environment with enormous expertise in the economics field, and at the same time be allowed to be myself. The whole point is to provide new input and different approaches to the Bank's investment management," he says. "My task will be to help set the agenda and get off to a good start."
Henrik Syse has a doctorate in moral philosophy from the University of Oslo and a master's in political philosophy from Boston College (USA). He is a senior researcher at the International Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO) and in the period 2002-2006 holds a research fellowship at the University of Oslo's Ethics Programme. His appointment as head of the ownership group will be effective from September 2005 to September 2006, in Which period he will be on full leave from his position with the Ethics Programme, but retain some affiliation to PRIO.
A further three experts have been appointed to this group: Ola Peter Krohn Gjessing from Reuter's, Kai Dramer, who has worked in the Ministry of Labour and Government Administration and the Research Council of Norway, and Alexander Cappelen, who is director of the Centre for Ethics and Economy at the Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration (NHH).
At the same time, NBIM is strengthening the financial components of the exercise of ownership rights by commissioning services from two other experts:
Espen Eckbo, a professor at Tuck School of Business in the USA. He has created a Centre for Corporate Governance at Tuck and has a considerable international reputation as a researcher. Eckbo will be affiliated with Norges Bank this autumn on sabbatical leave from Tuck.
Georg Størmer, who for many years has held senior positions in Norsk Hydro, including the post of chief financial officer. Størmer now holds several honorary posts, including the post of deputy chairman of the Oslo Stock Exchange.
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