AMWatch

World’s biggest wealth fund caught up in governance drama

An embarrassing recruitment debacle at Norway’s USD 1.1 trillion wealth fund has reignited a debate over who controls the world’s largest sovereign investor.

Nicolai Tangen, the London-based hedge fund manager selected by Norges Bank to run the wealth fund, is the man at the center of the controversy. | Photo: Tony Colli/PR

Norges Bank, which oversees the fund, failed to eliminate the risk of conflicts of interest tied to the new CEO’s personal wealth and his firm’s use of tax havens, according to its watchdog. On Friday, Norway’s biggest opposition party, Labor, came out against his appointment.

The government has now acknowledged the time might be ripe to consider some changes to the whole process. Both Norges Bank and Norway’s government insist the recruitment process didn’t breach the Central Bank Act. But the episode has exposed some glaring weaknesses in the governance structures surrounding a wealth fund that holds significant chunks of global stocks, bonds and real estate.

“It’s obvious that there’s discontent with the process,” said Karin Thorburn, a professor of finance at the Norwegian School of Economics.

Nicolai Tangen, the London-based hedge fund manager selected by Norges Bank to run the wealth fund, is the man at the center of the controversy. The 54-year-old has already agreed to forfeit control of his personal fortune, estimated at around USD 860 million. But Norges Bank’s watchdog says that should have been dealt with before his appointment was announced.

Norges Bank has also had to explain why Tangen’s fund, AKO Capital LLP, uses tax havens, and why his name never appeared on an official list of applicants.

Political Headwinds

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