Danish pension funds criticised over Tesla investments

Eight Danish pension funds have been criticised after investing over 140 million kroner (19 million euros) in US electric car giant Tesla.

Danish pension funds criticised over Tesla investments
File photo: AP Photo/Chuck Burton

The investments, details of which were published by media Ugebrevet A4, have been censured due to Tesla’s policy of banning unions along with its reputation for low wages and high incidence of workplace accidents, reports news agency Ritzau.

“The way I see it, the pension funds ought to withdraw from a company that oppresses its employees and forbids unions,” job market researcher Henning Jørgensen, a professor at Aalborg University, told Ugebrevet A4.

“This is a question of withdrawing as soon as possible, because unions cannot put money into a company that does not accept the right for workers to organise,” he said.

Kim Simonsen, vice chairperson in the Sampension fund, which has invested 16 million kroner (2.1 milion euros) in Tesla, admitted he was uncomfortable with the investement.

Simonsen is also chairperson of the HK trade union.

“HK members’ pension money should not fund poor working conditions. On the contrary. HK members’ money should be used to pressure Tesla into introducing decent conditions for their employees,” Simonsen said.

PensionDanmark, where members of unions including 3F and Dansk El-Forbunds have their pensions placed, owns shares worth 47 million kroner (6.3 million euros) in Tesla.

PensionDanmark director Jens-Christian Stougaard said that the fund was attempting to put pressure on Tesla.

“In August this year preliminary dialogue was begun on the conditions of employees at Tesla factories and subcontractors,” Stougaard said.

A third pension fund, PenSam, which administers pensions for the FOA union, sold its shares in Tesla earlier this year, citing ethical reasons according to Dennis Kristensen, who is chairperson with both the pension fund and union.

READ ALSO: Tesla accused of trying to circumvent Danish tax


Tesla accused of trying to circumvent Danish tax

The Danish government accused Tesla of using a bulk purchase of its own vehicles to shortchange the public purse of one billion kroner.

Tesla accused of trying to circumvent Danish tax
A Tesla spokesman said the company merely registered the number of vehicles it expects to sell next year. Photo: Odd Andersen/Scanpix

The registration of 2,500 luxury electric cars over the past few weeks has led Tax Minister Karsten Lauritzen to suspect extensive tax fraud by electric car manufacturer Tesla.  

Speaking to DR, the minister said that “2,500 electric cars, most likely Teslas, have been registered, and it seems that it is a circumvention of the tax exemption on electric cars”. 

Lauritzen announced last month that Denmark will be phasing out its tax credit on electric cars, which exempts the environmentally-friendly vehicles from the nation's 180 percent car registration levy. 

As a result, the costs of some popular electric models will skyrocket. The hardest hit will be the luxury model Tesla S P85D, which will more than double in price from 875,000 kroner today to 1,807,100 kroner in 2020.

See also: Tesla to fight Denmark's tax on electric cars

On Wednesday, the minister said that the huge increase in electric car registration indicates that Tesla is hoarding and reselling cars, a profit-motivated move that is illegal and will cost the Danish people.  

“If you buy under the old rules, then you will be able to sell them for a large profit. But it is a bill that will be passed on to Danish society, and I, as the tax minister will not allow this to happen,” he said.

Tax Minister Karsten Laurtizen. Photo: Jens Nørgaard Larsen/Scanpix 2015
Tax Minister Karsten Laurtizen. Photo: Jens Nørgaard Larsen/Scanpix

The minister estimates that the loss in tax revenue from the re-sale of the cars could amount to one billion kroner when the tax credit phase-outs begin on January 1st.

Esben Pedersen, a spokesman for Tesla Motors Denmark, initially rejected any allegations that Tesla had bulk registered cars, telling TV2 News “I have followed the case with amazement, and I would immediately pull the plug on the story. Tesla is not hoarding any cars.”

But Pedersen later made a u-turn, acknowledging that Tesla has been involved in the purchase of 2,500 number plates.

“What I have been made aware of is that there has been someone in our headquarters, sitting and ordering number plates for all markets”, Pedersen told DR.

Pedersen has argued that the registration of the 2,500 plates is a fully justifiable move, as demand for Tesla vehicles has increased since the tax increase on electric cars was announced. He said he couldn't understand Lauritzen's suspicions about Tesla.

“It is realistic that we will within the next year sell 2,500 cars. The person has therefore ordered plates for these vehicles,” Pedersen told DR.

“I think it is unfortunate that as a politician he is willing to hang a business out to dry in the national media on the basis of incomplete information,” he added.

Speaking to BBC News, Lauritzen said he is sorry if Tesla feels it has been targeted by the tax move and now feels that they have given a satisfactory reason for the registration of the 2,500 plates.

“I want the people to take advantage of the rules we have. But I also do not want people to be able to bypass them and hoard cars for re-sale. But if there are no suspicions of it, then that’s really good news,” he told the BBC.

In announcing the tax credit phase-out, Lauritzen said that the new plan “balances the needs for the continued expansion of electric cars in Denmark, the public purse and fairness within the automobile market”. 

“Many regular Danes have a hard time understanding why they should pay the full registration tax for their regular cars while those who can afford an electric car have gotten off completely free,” Lauritzen said in a press release. 

Tesla countered that the move amounts to “a phasing out of electric cars in Denmark”. The American company also feels it is being unfairly singled out by the plan. Tesla plans to fight the decision within the EU court system