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– I was treated like shit. I’ve been through a number of things that I never in my wildest dreams would have thought my employer would put me through, said Petter Hauger-Johannessen in the Oslo district court.
The 55-year-old is Elisabeth Bull Daae’s ex-girlfriend and today heads the department for equity trading in Europe at Oljefondet (Head and Equity trading Europe.) Together with four employees, he manages all equity trading for Oljefondet in Europe, as well as certain emerging markets.
On Thursday, it was his turn to tell his side of the labor dispute in courtroom 369. Hauger-Johannessen clearly expressed that he was upset and disappointed with the Oil Fund’s handling of the case.
– The oil fund is supposed to be a professional organisation, but has acted in an amateurish manner, he said.
The Norwegian Oil Fund will not comment on Hauger-Johannessen’s testimony.
– It is not natural for us to comment on an employee’s certificate in the case, says communications manager Line Aaltvedt to DN.
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– Retaliation after notification
Elisabeth Bull Daae still works at Oljefondet, but is fighting to keep her original leadership position as head of the department that analyzes securities trading (Head of trading analytics). She has sued her own employer for gender discrimination and invalid dismissal, with a claim for compensation and restitution of NOK 16 million.
She believes the change notice is retaliation from the management because she has warned about an uncultured workplace.
The oil fund justifies the relocation with the work environment being unjustifiable for both Bull Daae and her colleagues and rejects all allegations of discrimination on the basis of gender.
In her witness statement, Hauger-Johannessen started by talking about the relationship. The two department heads started meeting in 2018. They each led their own teams, but worked in the same department. (trading department) Therefore, the two quickly informed their superior manager about the relationship. During the pandemic, they lived and worked under the same roof.
Read also: Norges Bank trial: Complaint about hug from the Oil Fund manager
As the relationship developed in the spring of 2020, they had another meeting with the boss. Here they signaled that they were open to applying for other positions, but needed to know how much distance the Oil Fund thought they needed to have from each other first.
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– I said that I was willing to move and proposed a specific position. In my eyes, that would have helped the situation, said Hauger-Johannessen.
Bull Daae finally agreed to an 18-month temporary job to put some distance between them. As DN has previously mentioned, she did not enjoy her job and felt pressured out of her position.
Possible conflict of interest
When Bull Daae was going back to his old job, the Oil Fund began to investigate whether there were conflicts of interest in the picture on the basis of the relationship with Hauger-Johannessen. The two department heads believe that they were not made aware of this. Hauger-Johannessen reacts to the fact that they were not allowed to come up with an answer (contradiction) and feels deeply offended by the procedure of the Oil Fund.
– I think it is quite strong that the employer initiates a process against people who have worked there for 20 years without properly speaking up in advance, he said in court.
He pointed out that the investigations were started in August. Only in September did he and Bull Daae learn about the process. At a meeting with hr they believe the case was described as an investigation.
– I do not expect my employer to initiate an investigation against me if I have not done anything criminal, he said in court.
– If you have misunderstood the word investigation, Bull Daae’s lawyer Sigurd Knudtzon wanted to know:
– No. We have English as our working language and I have worked there for 20 years. I have also lived in England, answered Hauger-Johannessen.
– The other party thinks they used the word assessment?
– It’s wrong. I spoke to a person whose mother tongue was English, replied the 55-year-old.
– Now you have to stop
Shortly after the meeting where Hauger-Johannessen and Bull Daae were informed that the relationship was being investigated, they chose to end the relationship.
– For both of us, work is a big part of life. Elisabeth Bull Daae was in a situation with a lot of noise and pressure. We found out that we didn’t have the foundation to be lovers, but we could still be colleagues and friends, he said in court.
The day after the breakup, he informed his boss that they had moved apart.
But the management of the Oil Fund had doubts as to whether the breach was real and continued the investigations. When Hauger-Johannessen found out about this, he contacted the boss again:
– I saw; What the hell are you doing? Now you have to stop this here. I wanted to speak to the person who led the investigation, but he would not disclose that, said Hauger-Johannessen.
He felt that the investigations went beyond his job security.
– I felt like I was hanging and dangling without knowing what happened, Hauger-Johannessen said in court.
– The Oil Fund’s duty
The oil fund’s lawyer Jan Fougner believed in his opening presentation that the employer had a duty to investigate the relationship between Bull Daae and Hauger-Johannessen in more detail.
– The bank has the right and duty to ensure that there are no possible role conflicts internally. This was not a “secret investigation into her private life”, as Bull Daae claims, but a legitimate assessment, Fougner said in court
Fougner believes that the Oil Fund was fully within its rights to investigate the relationship between Bull Daae and Hauger-Johannessen, despite the fact that the two had ended it.
– They thought that now the problem was solved. But a relationship is not a decision. The emotions will be there, Fougner said.
During Hauger-Johannessen’s testimony, Fougner wanted to know whether the motivation for the breach was to end the investigations into the role conflict so that Bull Daae would get his old job back.
– I have explained what I mean. We were put in a situation where it was not possible for us to move forward. Because emotionally it was destroyed, said Hauger-Johannessen.
– You could have applied for a job elsewhere. Why didn’t you take that responsibility when you saw how Elisabeth Bull Daae was doing? Hadn’t that solved her situation?
– This happened in the middle of the pandemic and the whole of Norway was in lockdown. I’m over 50 years old and I don’t quit my job without having something to go to – but I’ve been out and had a look, said Hauger-Johannessen.
– Saw it as retaliation
After it was finally clarified that the relationship had ended, the Oil Fund changed its mind and Bull Daae was allowed to return to his old position. The two department heads found this out in November. But the conflict was by no means resolved, according to Hauger-Johannessen.
The 55-year-old believes he was deprived of work duties as a result of the conflict. At a meeting with the manager, Hauger-Johannessen learned that the global responsibility for the electronic share trading is to be transferred to a colleague in New York. This was a task Hauger-Johannessen had alongside managing all stock trading in Europe.
– The boss started the justification by saying that this was to get a greater distance between Elisabeth Bull Daae and me. I reacted to that. It was over between us. I thought we were done with this, said Hauger-Johannessen in court.
He said in court that he experienced the changes in work duties as retaliation.
– It was pure wing clipping. I saw it as retaliation, because I had made a fuss.
He was on sick leave for a short period:
– I am a person with a robust psyche, but I felt that I was not able to do the job.
Didn’t get a raise
When it was ready for this year’s salary negotiations, he said in court that at first he neither received an increased bonus limit nor a salary increase.
– I was the only one in the group who got zero salary increase. Naturally, I did not accept that.
The case ended up with Trond Grande, who is now deputy chairman of the Oil Fund.
– In the end, I got what I was entitled to in terms of the framework, but I felt it was a blow to the nose, continued Hauger-Johannessen.
Ask the parties to find a solution
After several days of harrowing and emotional testimony, the judge in the case, Lili Noelle Sverdrup, appealed to the parties to resolve the case outside the courtroom. She reminded the parties that it was not too late to make another attempt at reconciliation, even if previous initiatives had failed.
– Willingness to try again can change. I bring it up as a reminder to you that it is not too late to try, said Sverdrup.
Sverdrup pointed out that the financial costs are large and that a judgment will not resolve the conflict between the parties.
– It is a big burden for everyone. This is not something the court can resolve, she said.
Open argument in court
The suggestion by the judge resulted in a spat between the lawyers for the parties. Fougner’s immediate response was that it was no longer possible for the bank to turn around, without Bull Daae quitting his job.
– The bank has been trying to solve this case for a long time. Now we have been forced to face this conflict. It is not appropriate to enter into a voluntary solution. The only thing we are willing to do is to drop the demand for costs, he said.
Knudtzon fired back:
– This side has made a lot of effort to find an arrangement. The solutions we have come up with have no significance for the bank. It is a lack of flexibility from Norges Bank that is a main reason why no arrangement has been reached and why we are sitting here, said Knudtzon. (Terms)Copyright Dagens Næringsliv AS and/or our suppliers. We would like you to share our cases using links, which lead directly to our pages. Copying or other forms of use of all or part of the content may only take place with written permission or as permitted by law. For further terms see here.
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