Are Norwegian international companies goody-two-shoes, or simply pigs gone wild with snout in trough?

Year after year, Norway comes out of the annual Transparency International on a decent number 10 or 11. This is a very good position, considering that we are a major oil producer and, ehem, it is not always that the petroleum industry cares to mind those pesky ethical rules. As Norwegians, we have been thoroughly conditioned to believe that Norwegian companies at home or abroad always behave correctly and never bend the rules or offer money for a contract, even when – famously – in the 70’s some tricky dicky Norwegian trader managed to get stock fish delivered to India (I believe it was), to be used at roof thatching. There have been sporadic attempts at scratching on the very polished surface Norwegian companies have tried to hide under, but the cover was inconveniently ripped off some weeks ago:

Stoltenberg bowing to dictators, illustration from Aftenposten, July 25.

Dagbladet July 24, not online

The Angelwings must come off

Anne Marte Blindhheim

Yet again are the financial Newspapers filled with Norwegian corruption scandals abroad. The most shocking thing is that nobody gets shocked. Even though Norway comes out better than most countries, we’d expect no less (!), are we according to the Transparency Internationals yearly index at the top of corruption amongst the Nordic countries. A global report from the accountant firm PwC based on [voluntary] self reports, shows has more corruption issues/events than the average for Western-Europe. The last couple of years a number of scandals have been unravelled.

In 2002 STATOIL paid bribes to the son of a president for a contract in an iranian gas field. When HYDRO and STATOIL fused in 2007, old corruption like events from the Libya-activities in the 1990’s emerged. Robert Hermansen, a former CEO in the “Great Norwegian Spitsbergen coal company, was last year convicted to prison for having made him self rich from the power of his position. This summer the “Telenor” mobile [phone] company in India, “Uninor”, is indicted for corruption relating to their awarding mobile licensing. And “Yara” has alerted the “Economic-crime police” of bribes of the order of 100 million Nok bound to projects in India and Libya. Three top [company] heads are charged with heavy [ gross] corruption . One of them, Thorleif Enger, these days publishes the book “It’s about being the best”. SO that we may understand “what it takes”.

How did it turn out this way? [After all,] upfront Norwegian companies have ethical guidelines. [And After all,] the Norwegian Penal law has such harsh penalties for corruption. [After all,] the politicians have said that the companies should have routines for alerting [whistle bowing]. Our politicians and top bosses both “expect” and “prepares the ground for” Norwegians abroad to be the worlds best. Well, here lies the problem. It’s all just [fine] words.

The following example is not about corruption, but about how ugly things, in this case tar-sand , is rolled in in angles feathers. Through all the years STATOIL boss Helge Lund has said/explained that Norway shall extract oil from Canadian tar-sand in a better and cleaner way than everybody else [all others]. Minister of Oil Ola Borten Moe has [gratefully] taken this argument in his defence of the [when defending the ] activity [of Statoil in Canada]. This late spring earlier Statoil chief, Dr Robert G. Skinner, gave the Norwegian self-righteousness a soild kick in the behind. “This is pure fiction [storytelling]for a Norwegian audience”, he said, “The problem is that Norwegians expect that their company shall be the best and cleanest in the world”. The truth is that Statoil are beginners in a field [area] where others have been active for a long time. WHy should they be the best ?

Norwegian politicians are very concerned with/aware of/sensitive about reputation but do little to guide the companies in the right direction. When it comes to corruption, the business world needs systems which give strength to resist. Everybody realizes/understands that to run business/companies in countries like Angola and Aserbajdsjan involves challenges.

“Transparency International” (TI) evaluated the 12 Norwegian integrity systems that are important in the fight against corruption, amongst them the parliament, government, law courts, business and media. The institutions work well but not perfect. TI suggests a [significant] number of measures, like compulsory registration of the elected politicians properties/investments and economic interests, more openness [transparency] in the public sector and semi-public sectors and country by country reporting in business, something that may disclose “daughter companies” in tax-free countries.

Corruption hunter Helge Kvamme in PwC has another approach, that takes based on [the notion/assumption] that top leaders are not always super criminals. That is an exciting thought. He asks for a 13 [ 13th ?, 13 points ?] pillar[s]. A system based on voluntary reporting of serious incidences/events, where companies can get help tp investigate. Today there is nothing [no option] between denial [keeping silent] and alerting the police. Whistle blowers have nowhere to go with their issues. The risks for whistle blowers feels [is experienced as] large relative to the chance to succeed [get through / reach the intended aim]. For a top leader there is little to gain from “telling” [alerting] and cooperating. The chance to go free [getting away with a felony] is larger than the risk to get caught. The Economic crime police have little capacity and only take the really obvious cases, preferably those that are already uncovered by the press or private investigators. Thus [Thereby / because of this] the numbers from PwC’s study [mapping / characterization] hidden [kept in the dark] from the authorities.

Big angle wings shade the reality. At present [Right now] the [Norwegian] companies have no credibility whatsoever with [our] customers and with the trust amongst the five million co owners [Norwegians] home in Norway. Our ministers don’t seem to care , and the attitudes are contagious. We commit villain pulls on foreign [others] territories and don’t give a d[amn]. The suggestions taht lie on the table show that much more can be done to combat corruption – if one wishes.

This story has been picked up by Tundratabloids, and while I have had a most busy July, my Finnish friends have held the fort and taken care of Norway business:



They’re shameless.

If you remember, the Ethics Committee of the Norwegian State Fund has already excluded some Israeli companies from its portfolio. In the meantime, Norwegian companies are involved in unethical activities, left, right and center. In other words, the corruption and hypocrisy encompasses the entire Norwegian political spectrum.

The latest is the tank farm company Odfjell,  (it’s president, Bernt Daniel Odfjell on the right, shaking hands) which had to close its Dutch tank farm because of its transgressing many safety and environmental regulations. If only the Norwegians took to looking more closely at their own (real) short comings than pointing fingers at imaginary Israeli ones, the world would be a much better (and safer) place.

NOTE: Odfjell’s earlier victim(s)?

From BadNewsFromTheNetherlands blog:

Norwegian Company has to Close its Dutch Tank Farm

The Norwegian company Odfjell has under heavy pressure decided to entirely close for the moment its tank farm in the Rotterdam region. The company’s director Laurence Odfjell has admitted that the facilities do not meet environmental and safety standards. It will have to replace all cooling and extinguishing facilities on its more than 140 tanks with new ones. The company has apologized for its failures and hopes that the safety shutdown and restoration plans will remove the protests in society regarding its activities. The Dutch Environmental and Safety authorities consider the safety shutdown the correct response in view of the situation at Odfjell.

This story was has been picked up by major Dutch newspaper, de Telegraaf, which then helpfully was translated and made widely available for the wider public by the Bad News from Netherlands blog, and then, finally picked up by Aftenposten, who in an oped, bitterly laments the woeful state of affairs and concludes this is highly damaging for the good name and reputation of Norwegian international corporations.

Corporations, one might add, who often climb on their moral high horse and condemn Israel and boycott certain Israeli products.

Maybe the Norwegian companies now can be invited to examine their own shortcomings before they try to play the Israel card in order to placate socalled ethical clients.