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Norges Bank’s Governor Stands by a Controversial Hedge Fund Hire. Its Watchdog Doesn’t Entirely Agree.

Nicolai Tangen’s sovereign wealth soap opera continues.

The governor of Norway’s colossal sovereign wealth fund stood by the appointment of its controversial chief executive during a Monday parliamentary hearing. 

This hearing — in which the fund’s supervisory board questioned the circumstances surrounding Nicolai Tangen’s hiring — is the latest in a string of hurdles for Tangen, the founder of European hedge fund AKO Capital.  

“In a thorough process to recruit a new CEO of NBIM, Nicolai Tangen emerged as the decidedly strongest candidate,” said governor Øystein Olsen in his opening statement Monday. “Nothing has come to light in recent months that has changed our assessment.” 

Norges Bank Investment Management hired Tangen in March to replace Yngve Slyngstad as its chief executive. Soon after, the public and local media began to scrutinize the circumstances of Tangen’s hiring, from a flight Slyngstad took on Tangen’s dime before the recruiting process to the process itself — because the fund had not included Tangen’s name on the short-list of candidates it published. 

Since then, the $1.1 trillion fund has created a plan to eliminate Tangen’s conflicts of interest as the former investment chief of a hedge fund — another concern for the local government. 

The fund’s watchdog group — the supervisory board — used the meeting, which was live-streamed Monday in Norwegian, to further examine the recruiting process.  

Reuters reported that during the meeting, supervisory board head Julie Brodtkorb said that there was a breach of “guidelines, regulations, and laws” during the hiring process.  

Local media, including government-owned NRK and business news site Dagens Næringsliv, reported that Brodtkorb said the fund may have broken Norway’s Central Bank Act, which requires the fund to report “matters of importance” to the Ministry of Finance.  

A spokesperson for the supervisory board did not return an email Monday seeking confirmation of these details.  

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In his opening statement, Olsen highlighted that Tangen — even during the recruiting process — was amenable to taking steps to prevent conflicts of interest, given his ties to AKO. He has since put his wealth in a blind trust that will be run by an outside manager and agreed to donate all dividends arising from his stake in AKO to the AKO Foundation, Institutional Investor previously reported.  

“The risk of a conflict of interest... has for all practical purposes been eliminated,” Olsen said in his opening statement.  

Tangen is set to begin work in September, per Olsen’s statement.  

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