Erna Solberg embroiled in financial ethics scandal

Husband Sindre Finnes caught in conflict-of-interest probe after stock trading

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Erna Solberg will face Norwegian parliamentary committee investigation after her husband engaged in extensive stock trading while she was prime minister of Norway.

Frazer Norwell
The Local

Conservative Party leader and former Prime Minister Erna Solberg is under intense scrutiny after her husband made thousands of stock trades and netted NOK 1.8 million in profit while she was prime minister.

Erna Solberg was close to tears at a press conference on Sept. 15 when divulging more information about the stock trading of her husband, Sindre Finnes, while she was prime minister of Norway between 2013 and 2021.

“I have been incompetent in matters I have dealt with when I was prime minister,” she told the Norwegian press on Sept. 15.

“Now it is clear that he (Sindre Finnes) has nevertheles conducted extensive short-term stock trading. He has done that, even though he knew he shouldn’t. He also knew why he shouldn’t do it,” she added.

Solberg said her husband was not honest about the full extent of his stock trading.

She added that the prime minister’s office warned her husband about his trading, but he continued with it anyway.

Finnes has apologized in the press to his wife over his trading.

“I am very sorry that I have put Erna in this situation. I have not been honest, not with her and not with the prime minister’s office. I deeply regret that,” he told business and financial site E24.

What exactly has happened?

Recently, it has come to light that Solberg’s husband had traded stock in several companies while she was prime minister.

Documents released by the Conservative Party on Sept. 15 revealed that he made 3,600 stock transactions over the eight years Solberg was prime minister.

He also netted around NOK 1.8 million in profit from these trades.

Several of the companies he traded stock in have direct or indirect links to the Norwegian government or are affected by government policies.

The extent of the trading was much more than Solberg and Finnes had previously admitted to the press.

Why is this a problem?

Ministers and government members in Norway have a set of guidelines to follow. Among these are conflict-of-interest rules and impartiality rules. They must assess whether they are acting impartially or whether a conflict of interest has affected their judgment.

The guidelines for government members also include regulations for the partners of ministers and prime ministers.

Breaching such guidelines is considered serious, as it undermines the public’s trust in the government.

Finnes’ trading while Solberg was prime minister also opens up questions as to whether he was privy to inside information.

This is something Solberg strongly denies.

“I have never shared inside information with Sindre. Nor has he acted on any inside information about this,” she told public broadcaster NRK in early September.

What will happen to Solberg?

Norway’s economic crime unit Økokrim has said that it will consider whether there are grounds for opening an investigation of Finnes’ stock trading.

Solberg will be questioned by a parliamentary committee in November. Finnes’ stock trading will be part of a larger hearing on impartiality and conflict of interest by the the Storting’s Standing Committee on Scrutiny and Constitutional Affairs in November.

The fresh revelations will come as a blow to Solberg. Despite being ousted in the 2021 elections, she remains a popular figure in Norwegian politics.

Over the previous weeks and months, she has been increasingly critical of the current government, which itself was embroiled in several conflict-of-interest cases.

Solberg has said that deciding whether she should be replaced as leader would be a matter for the Conservative Party.

“The question of who is the leader of the Conservative Party is a question that the Conservative Party will decide for itself,” she told the press on Sept. 15.

Also see Corruption seen in Norway’s government in the September 2023 issue of The Norwegian American and Conservative Party (H) now largest in the October 2023 issue of The Norwegian American.

This article originally appeared in the October 2023 issue of The Norwegian American.

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Frazer Norwell

Frazer Norwell is a multimedia journalist for the Norwegian edition of The Local (thelocal.no), Europe’s largest independent English-languages online news network, providing the latest news, essential insights, and practical guides to life in Norway.