Norway’s sovereign wealth fund hits out at VW leadership

As VW battles a global emissions-cheating scandal, the fund's chief executive, Yngve Slyngstad, slammed the carmaker's shareholder structure.

Norway's sovereign wealth fund hits out at VW leadership
"I don't think that anyone genuinely believes that the family wants to change anything about the structure," Slyngstad said. Photo: NTB/Scanpix

“This cannot be a role model for Germany,” Slyngstad told the Sunday newspaper, Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

The Porsche and Piech families own 50.73 percent of VW's voting shares via the holding company Porsche Automobil Holding SE, but they own only 31.5 per cent of the company equity.

“I don't think that anyone genuinely believes that the family wants to change anything about the structure,” Slyngstad told the newspaper.

“We as co-owners don't get the impression that the family wants to listen to us.”

Norway's €734 billion ($819 billion) fund holds a stake of 1.2 percent in Volkswagen.

It previously criticised the German group's shareholder structure in 2009 following the VW-Porsche takeover battle.

The embattled auto giant is currently embroiled in its deepest-ever crisis after it was forced to admit that it had fitted 11 million diesel cars worldwide with software which intentionally skews the results of emissions tests.

On Friday, the company took the unusual step of delaying the publication of its annual results and pushed back its annual shareholder meeting as it grapples with assessing the full financial fallout from the scandal.

Separately, the star lawyer VW has hired to handle compensation claims in the United States told another Sunday newspaper that it might take some time yet before a deal is hammered out for owners of the affected vehicles in the US.

“My hands are tied as long as VW and the authorities don't overcome their differences. The original timeframe could be delayed,” lawyer Kenneth Feinberg told Die Welt am Sonntag.

Feinberg is renowned as the go-to lawyer for high-profile legal cases.

He managed the compensation claims fund for General Motors related to the deadly ignition switches used in some of its cars.

Feinberg also managed similar funds for the victims of the September 11th, 2001, terror attacks and the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

Feinberg, who originally suggested when he was hired in December that it could take between 60 and 90 days to draw up a claims resolution programme, said all options were still on the table with regard to what form the compensation could take.

“It has not yet been decided. All options are still up for debate: cash payments, car buy-backs, repairs, or the provision of replacement cars,” he said.

“It's immaterial to me what a company can afford. What is important for me is to find a solution that is generous enough to satisfy the affected customers,” Feinberg said.

“My task is not to punish VW,” he added.


Norway meets 2012 Kyoto target

Norway has finally met its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol’s first period, despite overshooting its emissions target by 6.5 percent, thanks to the purchase of a whopping 299m emissions credits.

Norway meets 2012 Kyoto target
André Aasrud watches as Ida Bjørkum (closest) transfers the final credits into the UN system. Photo: NTB scanpix
The country’s Environment Agency this week transferred the final 2,053,108 emissons credit to the UN’s carbon offset registry, its final contribution for the period 2008-2012. 
Norway’s Climate and Environment minister Tine Sundtoft said it was good that the country had met its commitments ahead of next month’s climate meeting in Paris. 
“It is positive that we can demonstrate that we comply with our obligations before we go to Paris to negotiate a new deal,” she said. 
She argued there should be no shame on Norway relying on credits to meet its goal. 
“The opportunity to use quota purchases allows countries to collaborate more easily on emission reductions,” she said. “We manage to cut more by collaborating than we would have done alone, and that means that the level of ambition in climate policy can be raised.” 
Norway’s heavy buying of emissions credits went beyond what was required to bring it to its target for 2008-2012, which was to limit emissions growth over the period to one percent above 1990  levels. 
It also transferred allowances for voluntary cancellation to strengthen its Kyoto commitment by 10 percent, to offset emissions from state employees’ air travel and from the test centre for carbon capture at Mongstad. 
Including purchased credits, its emissions were twelve percent lower than in 1990. 
If Norway had not taken measures to reduce emissions domestically, its emissions would have been 25-30 percent higher, the ministry of climate and environment said in its press release.