Ericsson Meets With Investors to Address Corruption Concerns

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  • Shareholders, including Nordea, met with company Thursday
  • Nordea says picture ‘still blurry and we need more validation’

Ericsson AB met with large shareholders on Thursday, providing information about its anti-corruption program, though not answering all their questions about government probes into alleged bribery in several countries.

Investors, including Nordea Bank AB, learned about Ericsson’s program to tackle corruption, as well as the commitment to those systems by the wireless-network maker’s board and management, Sasja Beslik, head of responsible investment at Nordea Asset Management, said Thursday in a text message.

“All in all, it was informative, but lets hope there won’t be more closet cases we’re not aware about," Beslik said. There are “a lot of moving parts regarding China, Greece and the SEC investigation that make it difficult to understand how these systems function in practice. The picture is still blurry and we need more validation.”

Disclosures and media reports over the last few weeks have raised questions about Ericsson’s practices in countries ranging from Greece to Romania and China. The incidents have put pressure on Chief Executive Officer Hans Vestberg, who is under fire from one of his largest shareholders for lackluster share performance.

An Ericsson spokeswoman who had earlier confirmed the meeting to present the company’s anti-corruption program to a group of investors, couldn’t immediately be reached to comment.

Ericsson said this week seven current and former employees were summoned by a Greek prosecutor investigating allegations of corruption in the 1999 sale of an airborne radar system. The Greek case marks the second time in a week Ericsson has publicly addressed allegations of graft.

Last week, Ericsson repeated it was cooperating with U.S. authorities since receiving a March 2013 request to provide information in a matter involving the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. In 2013, it said the probe was related to a payment system used to win contracts in the 1990s, including orders in Romania. It hasn’t provided details on the U.S. request and hasn’t publicly responded to a Svenska Dagbladet report that the Securities and Exchange Commission has also focused on its operations in China.

Ericsson’s shares declined 1 percent to 65.15 kronor at 4:19 p.m. in Stockholm. The stock has tumbled about 20 percent this year, valuing the company at about 219 billion kronor ($26.5 billion).