Denmark to review Goldman Sachs deal

The US investment bank Goldman Sachs has announced that it is prepared to share details of its partial purchase of state-owned Dong Energy, thereby finally allowing the Danish parliament insight into the circumstances behind the criticized deal.

Denmark to review Goldman Sachs deal
Photo: Thomas Lekfeldt/Scanpix

The US investment firm Goldman Sachs has given Finance Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen permission to disclose details of the prior government’s controversial sale of a large stake in Dong Energy to the bank last year.

Shortly thereafter, Frederiksen announced that he is prepared to disclose these details to the parliament’s finance committee.

In separate interviews with Berlingske on Wednesday, two senior managers from the investment bank – Martin Hintze and Michael Bruun – said that they want to put an end to the “myths and speculations” about the lack of transparency in the process leading up to the sale, which was widely criticized and caused a partial collapse of the previous coalition government. 

See also: Minister rapped over Goldman Sachs deal

“We have nothing to hide and therefore see no reason to limit the ability of the [Danish parliament’s] finance committee to review what they need to. Due to the concerns that have been raised about the deal, we find there is reason to deviate from normal procedures that usually apply to these types of deals,” Hintze told Berlingske.

Frederiksen explained to TV2 that it was only natural that the parliament’s finance committee would be given access to details about the sale now that the bank has given the government free hands to do so.

“There is a justifiable expectation from the finance committee to be informed about the bids that were given, especially when the bids concerned an important state company. Dong means a lot to Denmark, and it is therefore only natural that the finance committee’s members are given the opportunity to be privy to the bids,” Frederiksen said.

See also: Denmark lost billions on Goldman Sachs deal

The former government’s decision to sell an 18 percent stake of the company to Goldman Sachs in January 2014 was deeply controversial and led to the Socialist People’s Party leaving the coalition government in protest. 

After the sale, it was revealed that a Danish pension fund had actually offered a higher bid than the American investment firm.

Earlier this year, a book came out that stated that parliament’s finance committee was required to stop the sale if it was possible to get a higher price than what was offered by Goldman Sachs. According to the book, former Finance Minister Bjarne Corydon neither informed the committee of that obligation nor gave them information about the other bids. 

Corydon defended not releasing more information on the Dong sale on the grounds that sensitive information had previously leaked out of parliament. 

However, critics say that the lack of transparency may have been due to an undisclosed arrangement struck between the investment bank and former government that allowed the former to buy its 18 percent stake at a price lower than competing bids. 

In a comment to DR on Wednesday, Corydon said that he “respects” Frederiksen's decision to share the details of the deal with parliament.

“During my time as Finance Minister, I prioritized considerations of the state's economic interests and future investors' confidence that their bids will be handled confidentially when they invest in Denmark through dealings with the state. That is still a relevant consideration,” he wrote.

“I have never had any personal interest in shutting off the finance committee's access to the bids that were given in the Dong sale, as naturally the material clearly documents that the proceedings were handled correctly and by the rules,” Corydon added.

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