Newspaper celebrates award for McKinsey exposé

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Norway’s main business newspaper, Dagens Næringsliv (DN), was celebrating this week after winning one of the country’s most prestigious journalism prizes, the Skup-pris, for its exposé of how one of the world’s biggest consulting firms, McKinsey, secretly manages billions of dollars on behalf of its partners.

The lengthy story about the huge amounts of money invested for its partners was sparked by a tip that several partners in Norway faced large bills for back taxes. Two years later, in the summer of 2011, DN published its account of the secret fortunes controlled by the consultants who wield considerable influence in Norway and many other countries through the consulting contracts they win in both the public and private sector.

Kjetil Sæter, one of the reporters on the story, noted that it was published shortly before last summer’s terrorist attacks in Norway, and perhaps didn’t get the attention it otherwise might have. “But McKinsey is heavily involved in the management of public funds and steers many decision-making processes,” he said. “We didn’t write about the quality of the advice they offer, but revealed the economic interests they have.”

It was described as “very difficult” to get any information out of McKinsey itself, because both current and former employees earn the most by not talking about the firm’s operations. The DN reporters thus used various Norwegian and international registers to obtain information, including documents that revealed investments in a US hedge fund.

“McKinsey says itself that the company’s business model is built on a foundation of confidence,” said Gøran Skaalmo, who worked with Sæter on the project. “Our research, however, found conflicts of interest when they hid private investments from their clients.”

The Skup-pris, awarded by Norway’s foundation for investigative journalism, was the third won by Skaalmo. More than 600 journalists from all over Norway gathered in Tønsberg last weekend, where the award was announced at the foundation’s annual conference.

Two other DN journalists, Eskil Engdal and Aleksander Nordahl, won the Skup foundation’s International Reporter’s prize, for a lengthy story on diamond smuggling in Zimbabwe. Other prizes went to newspaper Bergens Tidende, for stories on police intelligence unit PST and Global Shield, and to Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK)’s Brennpunkt program, for an exposé on state welfare agency NAV.

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