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Norway’s oil fund, as the world’s biggest sovereign wealth fund is commonly known, will expand its scrutiny for possible corruption at national oil companies under strengthened guidelines from the fund’s ethics council, Bloomberg News reported on Thursday, citing the council’s updated plan it had seen.
The Norwegian fund, Government Pension Fund Global, which had a total market value of US$1.2 trillion (10.4 trillion Norwegian crowns) at end-2020, regularly reviews its holdings in companies from all sectors and excludes from its portfolio companies engaged in violations of human rights, gross corruption, tobacco production, unacceptable emissions, and severe environmental damage, among others. It is the task of the Council on Ethics to submit recommendations on the observation or exclusion of companies in accordance with the Fund’s Ethical Guidelines.
“As there are many corruption cases related to national oil companies, this is a sector the Council on Ethics will look into in 2021,” says the latest plan by Council on Ethics seen by Bloomberg.
The council is expected to publish in March a list of companies under observation.
In the past, the Norwegian fund had placed Brazil’s state oil giant Petrobras under observation between 2016 and 2019 upon recommendation from the Council on Ethics.
At the end of 2019, the fund removed Petrobras from its corruption watchlist of companies that are destined to be excluded from the fund’s investment universe due to ethics violations. Norges Bank decided to revoke the observation of Petrobras under which it had placed it in 2016 following the massive corruption scandal that engulfed the state oil firm and the whole of Brazil in 2015.
Last year, the Council on Ethics recommended the exclusion of PetroChina from the Norwegian fund’s investments “due to an unacceptable risk that the company contributes to or is responsible for gross corruption.”
The fund’s Executive Board decided, however, to follow PetroChina’s work on anti-corruption as part of active ownership efforts over a period of three years, saying that active ownership in this case is more suitable than outright exclusion.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.