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Investment Ethics and the Global Economy of Sports: The Norwegian Oil Fund, Formula 1 and the 2014 Russian Grand Prix

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Abstract

As a sovereign wealth fund, the $1 trillion Norwegian Government Pension Fund-Global (‘the Oil Fund’), which is managed by Norges Bank Investment Management on behalf of the welfare of Norway’s citizens, is supposed to be a flagship for socially responsible investments through its Council of Ethics. However, its investment in Delta Topco, the holding company of Formula 1 world championship that, through Formula One Group, brokered a deal with Russia to host a Formula 1 Grand Prix in 2014, raises the question of whether the Oil Fund should enhance its due diligence processes. Although no evidence of corruption related to the race is introduced, the complex relation between financial logic and the world of sports still raises questions about the ethical solidity of the Oil Fund’s investment. Drawing upon reports of the relationship between political economy and sporting events, this paper therefore analyses, in light of the Oil Fund’s ethical guidelines, the complexities of its investment in Delta Topco. As a result, it is argued that a new set of examination methods by the Council of Ethics may be warranted.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    This paper does not suggest that the Oil Fund has contributed to corruption in Russia, nor does it imply that any of the actors mentioned are corrupt. It merely draws upon both publically available official reports critical of the political economy related to the 2014 Sochi Olympics, of which the Russian Grand Prix also become part, to explore the ethical complexities of the Oil Fund’s investment in Delta Topco and to illuminate the unclear third party responsibilities in the global economy of sports.

  2. 2.

    An interactive infographic about the size of the Oil Fund can be accessed from: https://www.nbim.no.

  3. 3.

    Ibid.

  4. 4.

    Guidelines for observation and exclusion from the Government Pension Fund Global. Available from: http://etikkradet.no/en/guidelines/ (accessed 1 October 2016).

  5. 5.

    Ibid.

  6. 6.

    For the Council of Ethics’ review of these issues, please consult the information available from: http://etikkradet.no/files/2016/01/Tilrådning-Petrobras-21.-desember-2015.pdf (accessed 1 October 2016). My translation.

  7. 7.

    For the Council of Ethics’ review of these issues, please consult the information available from: http://etikkradet.no/en/tilradninger-og-dokumenter/recommendations/gross-corruption/. See also https://www.regjeringen.no/globalassets/upload/fin/statens-pensjonsfond/siemens.pdf (accessed 1 October 2016). My translation.

  8. 8.

    For the Council of Ethics’ review of these issues, please consult the information available from: https://www.regjeringen.no/globalassets/upload/fin/statens-pensjonsfond/siemens.pdf (accessed 10 October 2016). My translation.

  9. 9.

    ‘Russia Opposition Leader Banned from Going to Sochi’, The Interpreter, 17 February, 2014. Available from: http://www.interpretermag.com/russia-opposition-leader-alexei-navalny-banned-from-going-to-sochi/ (accessed 24 October 2016).

  10. 10.

    ‘Sochi to host Russian GP from 2014–2020’, reuters.com, 14 October. Available from: http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-motor-racing-russia-idUKTRE69D1X020101014 (accessed 18 October 2016).

  11. 11.

    ‘Sergey Vorobyov is now responsible for the Formula 1 race in Sochi’, Dragtimes, 26 March, 2014. Available from: http://www.dragtimes.ru/en/blogs/view/350 (accessed 14 October 2016).

  12. 12.

    ‘“FORMULA SOCHI plc” is in the center of corruption scandal and close to going bankrupt’, change.org, 9 April, 2015. Available from: https://www.change.org/p/fia-cancel-formula-one-russian-grand-prix/u/10408366 (accessed 17 October 2016).

  13. 13.

    ‘Organizer of Russian Formula One Grand Prix at Sochi declared bankrupt’, Russian Legal Information Agency, 1 June, 2015. Available from: http://rapsinews.com/judicial_news/20150601/273836329.html (accessed 17 October 2016).

  14. 14.

    ‘Russian Grand Prix Bosses Deny Claims Sochi Race Organisers have Gone Bankrupt’, Inside the Games, 3 June, 2015. Available from: http://www.insidethegames.biz/index.php/articles/1027713/russian-grand-prix-bosses-deny-claims-sochi-race-organisers-have-gone-bankrupt (accessed 17 October 2016).

  15. 15.

    ‘Sochi GP promoter says the F1 race is on for “years to come”’, News18/Associated Press, 5 December 2015. Available from: http://www.news18.com/news/formula-one/sochi-gp-promoter-says-the-f1-race-is-on-for-years-to-come-1172828.html (accessed 18 October 2016).

  16. 16.

    ‘Formula One Chief Bernie Ecclestone Settles Bribery Case for $100 Million’, New York Times, 5 August, 2014. Available from: https://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/06/world/europe/formula-one-chief-settles-bribery-case-for-100-million.html?mcubz=3&mcubz=3 (accessed 20 August 2017).

  17. 17.

    All rankings are available from: https://www.transparency.org/news/feature/corruption_perceptions_index_2016 (accessed 19 August 2017).

  18. 18.

    ‘Russia 2012: Increased Repression, Rampant Corruption, Assisting Rogue Regimes’, freedomhouse.org, 21 March, 2012. Available from: https://freedomhouse.org/blog/russia-2012-increased-repression-rampant-corruption-assisting-rogue-regimes (accessed 25 October 2016).

  19. 19.

    ‘Transparency International on oil companies and corruption: who is the most open?’ Guardian, 1 March 2011. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2011/mar/01/transparency-international-oil-corruption#data.

  20. 20.

    ‘Norway’s oil fund launches attack on F1’s Bernie Ecclestone’, Financial Times, 11 March 2014. Available from: https://www.ft.com/content/09c3911c-a942-11e3-b87c-00144feab7de (accessed 19 August 2017).

  21. 21.

    A series of articles with emphasis on the secrecy from NBIM were published in the Norwegian business daily Dagens Næringsliv in November–December 2014. A report on the process is available from: http://www.skup.no/metoderapporter/2014/30%20-%20OLjefondet%20og%20Formel%201-aksjene.pdf (in Norwegian only, accessed 1 October 2016).

Abbreviations

FIA:

Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile

FOG:

Formula One Group

ISA:

International Sport Associations

NBIM:

Norges Bank Investment Management

SRI:

Socially responsible investments

SWF:

Sovereign wealth fund

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Correspondence to Hans Erik Næss.

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Næss, H.E. Investment Ethics and the Global Economy of Sports: The Norwegian Oil Fund, Formula 1 and the 2014 Russian Grand Prix. J Bus Ethics 158, 535–546 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-017-3751-8

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Keywords

  • Norwegian Government Pension Fund
  • Sport
  • Politics
  • Socially responsible investments
  • Formula 1