Carina Akerstrom Stepped Down from Alecta After One Week in Deepening Crisis

Alecta finds itself in turmoil once again as its newly appointed chairman, Carina Akerstrom, steps down from her position after just one week. This marks the second misstep in filling the role within a short span, raising concerns about the pension fund's ability to navigate its ongoing crisis. With 1.2 trillion kronor ($116 billion) of retirement savings under its purview, Alecta serves a significant portion of Sweden's population.

Akerstrom's departure comes amidst scrutiny over a potential conflict of interest related to Alecta's investment in Heimstaden Bostad AB, a landlord burdened with heavy debt and Alecta's largest single investment. The decision to resign was made promptly, with a spokesperson for Alecta confirming her immediate departure. Her exit deals another blow to Alecta's efforts to restore trust and stability following a string of investment failures and executive departures.

In the wake of Akerstrom's resignation, Jan-Olof Jacke, the vice chairman, assumes leadership at the pension fund. This transition does not require a shareholder meeting for approval, according to Alecta's statement. Jacke had already been overseeing the fund in an interim capacity since October, following the departure of Ingrid Bonde as chairman.

The apparent conflict of interest arises from Akerstrom's previous role as chief executive officer of Svenska Handelsbanken AB, which has ties to Heimstaden Bostad as a creditor. This potential conflict challenges Akerstrom's ability to scrutinize Alecta's substantial investment in the landlord, raising questions about her contractual obligations with Handelsbanken.

While Akerstrom relinquished her position as CEO of Handelsbanken at the beginning of the year, her contract extends until October 2024 and requires her full loyalty to the bank until then. This contractual obligation, coupled with lifelong non-disclosure agreements pertaining to Handelsbanken's business, presents complexities that may have influenced her decision to step down from Alecta.

“It’s regrettable that Carina Akerstrom has changed her view on her ability to fulfill her tasks as chairman of Alecta and decided to resign. No new information has appeared we were already aware of,” said Kenneth Bengtsson, chairman of Alecta’s supervisory board. “Throughout the process we have naturally asked Carina Akerstrom comprehensive questions regarding this. Our view is that there were no conflicts of interest which could not be handled in a regular fashion.”

In the fourth quarter, Alecta recorded a 19% reduction in the value of its stake in Heimstaden Bostad, resulting in an 8.7 billion kronor decrease in the holding's worth. This substantial writedown reflects the challenges faced by the landlord, including credit-rating downgrades and significant increases in borrowing expenses.

Heimstaden Bostad is currently grappling with the need to divest properties amid adverse credit ratings and a sharp rise in borrowing costs. In her role as chairperson, Akerstrom would have been tasked with overseeing negotiations to amend the unfavorable shareholder agreement with the company's co-owner, Norwegian billionaire Ivar Tollefsen.

Source: yahoo!finance