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DECADE: Norway Sovereign Wealth Still Views Wal-Mart as a Human Rights Violator

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Norges Bank, the overseer of Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG), typically follows given recommendations from the Council on Ethics appointed by Norway’s Ministry of Finance when it comes to excluding companies for the sovereign wealth fund. For over a decade now, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Wal-Mart De Mexico SA de CV remain on the exclusion list in the category of “Serious Violations of Human Rights.” Both entities have been on the list since May 31, 2006 and make up 2 out of the 3 violators in the human rights categorization. The other company on Norway’s exclusion list via human rights is Zuari Agro Chemicals Ltd. However, the situation is different now. In 2006, Norway’s GPFG was less than US$ 250 billion in assets; today the wealth fund approaches US$ 1 trillion and has taken a more active stance on labor issues via proxy votes. Norway’s sovereign fund is the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world in terms of assets under management and one of the biggest owners of companies from a public institutional investor standpoint.

Wal-Mart’s Low Wage Overhang

Wal-Mart is the largest retailer in the United States and has been attacked by various labor groups for paying its employees very low wages, forcing many Wal-Mart “associates” to also enroll in U.S. government welfare programs to maintain a standard of living. The retailer is constantly barraged in the U.S. press over labor or linked discriminatory stories. In July 2017, 10 illegal immigrants from Mexico were found dead by U.S. authorities at a San Antonio Wal-Mart store location, in an incident related to human smuggling.

According to the Council on Ethics’ recommendation of 15 November 2005 “An extensive body of material indicates that Wal-Mart consistently and systematically employs minors in contravention of international rules, that working conditions at many of its suppliers are dangerous or health-hazardous, that workers are pressured into working overtime without compensation, that the company systematically discriminates against women in pay, that all attempts to unionise by the company’s employees are stopped, that employees are in a number of cases unreasonably punished and locked in, along with a number of other circumstances…”.

On another note, Wal-Mart is trying to compete against Amazon in the e-commerce space, fighting over consumer spenders. Wal-Mart had acquired Jet.com to enhance its online presence.

SWFI First Read, September 19, 2018

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QIA Eyes Investment in Chinese Lender Lufax

The Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) is in talks about a possible investment into Shanghai-based Lufax, one of China’s largest online lenders. The seller of the possible stake is China’s Ping An Insurance (Group) Co. Ltd. Lufax’s official name is Shanghai Lujiazui International Financial Asset Exchange Co. Ltd.

Wealth Funds Back Hotpot Giant

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Japanese Government Capital Provides Initial Life for Texas Bullet Train

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Dallas-based Texas Central Partners, LLC is the developer of a proposed high-speed rail system, dubbed the Texas Bullet Train, between Dallas and Houston. Project costs are estimated between US$ 12 billion to US$ 15 billion. The developer secured US$ 300 million in project loans from Japan Overseas Infrastructure Investment Corporation for Transport & Urban Development (JOIN) and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC). [ Content protected for Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute Standard subscribers only. Please subscribe to view content. ]

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DOJ Investing Tesla Over Musk Comments

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The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is conducting a fraud investigation over Tesla as its CEO Elon Musk made public statements on twitter. This is a criminal probe. In addition, earlier, SWFI reported the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is conducting a civil inquiry into Elon Musk regarding his statements.

This all surrounds Musk tweeting in August that he was thinking of taking Tesla private and had “funding secured” for the transaction. Both government authorities are seeing if Musk misled investors and violated federal securities laws with his public statements.

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