You might not think there are too many similarities between the red-meat state of Texas and the liberal democracy of Sweden but one that comes to the mind of The Man From FCPA is the time-honored tradition of hunting in both locales. In Texas it tends to be deer hunting, while in Sweden it is elk hunting. One of the questions I hear from time-to-time is if businesses in Texas can continue their often decades-long tradition of hosted hunting trips for foreign officials and those employees from state-owned enterprises.
It turns out this very question has now embroiled the country of Sweden in an internal investigation involving Anders Borg, the country’s former finance minister and Fredrik Lundberg, the chairman of the investment company Industrivarden. For many years, Lundberg has hosted elk hunts, at a lodge owned by another company of which he is also the chairman. Swedish prosecutors are investigating hunts that included Borg while he was finance minister back in 2014 and 2015. The value of the hunting trip was Skr7,000, which sounds high to the U.S. ear but when converted into U.S. dollars is a paltry $770 value. This is a far cry from the cost of hosted hunting trips in Texas, which routinely run into the thousands of dollars.
Given the high visibility of recent corrupt allegations and investigations in Sweden, such scrutiny is perhaps not surprising. Lundberg himself came to head Industrivarden after its prior chief executive departed over lavish spending for hospitality and personal use of corporate jets. Lundberg has even moved to clean house in which Industrivarden is an investor, requiring renewed emphasis on compliance.
While the optics might be questionable, such elk hunting boondoggles have been going on for over 20 years at the same lodge. Clearly it is an opportunity for senior executives to meet, discuss issues of mutual interest and if government ministers are present, present their views and opinions. In the United States, that is called petitioning your government for redress. More pejoratively, it is also called lobbying.
So is it a violation of Swedish ethics laws to host an elk hunting trip? That remains to be seen. How about that deer hunting trip in Texas? Check back for the next episode.