Fishrot hits Norway’s biggest bank

DNB’s shares plunge

02 December 2019 | Sakenuus
Shares in Norwegian partially state-owned bank DNB plunged more than 6% on Friday after the country's white-collar crime unit launched an investigation into its handling of payments to Namibia from Iceland's biggest fishing company.

The investigation is still in an early phase, Norwegian police said.

The fishing firm, Samherji, and DNB, Norway's biggest bank, have both denied wrongdoing.

The investigation follows a report by Iceland's public broadcaster this month that said the fishing company had made illicit payments worth millions of US dollars to secure fishing quotas in Namibia.

Financial Times quoted Hedvig Moe, interim head of Norway’s authority for the investigation and prosecution of economic and environmental crime, as saying: “The aim of the investigation is to find out what happened and whether any criminal acts have been committed. It is natural that we co-operate with authorities in other countries working on this complex case.”

‘Serious’

A Norwegian website, newsinenglish.co, reported that the new chief executive at DNB, Kjerstin Braathen, has called the situation “serious” and stressed that “we must bring forth all the information we can.”

The website refers to reports in a Norwegian newspaper, Dagens Næringsliv (DN), where DNB’s chief executive Kjerstin Braathen is quoted, saying “we can’t rule out that we have been misused”.

DN also quotes Norway’s finance minister, Siv Jensen, calling on DNB to “lay all its cards on the table.”

“DNB must contribute so we can get to the bottom of this, I think that’s in DNB’s own interests,” Jensen said. The Norwegian government owns 34% of the stock in DNB, which also has long ranked as the country’s largest and most profitable bank.

Reuters reported in August that Norway’s Financial Supervisory Authority (FSA) found significant shortcomings in DNB’s compliance with anti-money laundering (AML) regulations during a late-2018 inspection.

The FSA found improvements had been made since an earlier review in 2016 by DNB, the Nordic region’s biggest bank by market value, but said the lender still had significant shortcomings and had taken too long to start to rectify earlier problems.

“The company’s overall follow-up and coordination of AML has not been satisfactory,” the FSA said, adding it found shortcomings in risk assessments, monitoring of electronic transactions and in documentation of measures DNB had taken.

Economic crime

No penalties were imposed on DNB, the bank said.

DNB said it takes work against money laundering very seriously and would continue to improve its compliance. It noted the FSA’s report did not uncover explicit cases of money laundering.

Problems within compliance were also found at DNB’s private banking unit, the FSA said, and a new inspection will be conducted shortly, Reuters reported.

Long regarded as only a minor risk issue for Nordic banks, economic crime has become a major concern over the past two years after money laundering scandals at Danske Bank and Swedbank.

While shares in Danske and Swedbank have plunged since 2017, falling by 65% and 47% respectively, DNB has traded near its record high in recent months and is still only 11% off its 2019 peak hit on Oct. 28. – Nampa/Reuters, Financial Times, newsinenglish.co

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