As if Norwegian telecoms firm Telenor didn’t have enough trouble right now, its new chief executive officer Sivge Brekke has also had to apologize for claiming on his CV (resumé) that he had a bachelor’s degree from a Norwegian college. He doesn’t.
Business magazine Kapital revealed the CV bluff on Thursday and Norwegian media outlets were quick to pick up on it. The bluff comes as Telenor, one of Norway’s largest companies, is currently caught up in a major corruption drama involving bribery suspicions at partly owned VimpelCom Ltd.
Now Brekke, who took over as Telenor’s CEO earlier this year, is caught up in trying to explain why he listed a “Bachelor Degree in Business and Administration” from “Telemark College, Norway,” (Høgskolen i Telemark, formerly Telemark Distriktsskole). The degree has been listed on his CV, and published on Telenor’s own website, for the past 10 years. But as Kapital reported, he lacked enough credits to earn the degree.
More on this story: Telenor defends its new chief executive
At first, Brekke claimed Kapital was wrong and that he did have a degree from the college located in the mountain town of Bø in Telemark County, but that he didn’t remember the details. The college itself could prove that he didn’t.
Brekke’s memory thus later improved and the information chief at Telenor told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) that “it is correct that Sigve Brekke does not have a degree from the college in Bø.” He apparently earned 38 of the 40 credits needed and lacks a seminar assignment that would give the remaining two. He didn’t finish the degree program because he got active in Labour Party politics at the time, more than 30 years ago, and “put a priority on the political work.”
Brekke eventually went on to become a state secretary in a Labour Party government, but claimed he had the degree when he applied in 1996 for a research post at Harvard University in the US. He went on to get a Master’s degree in Public Administration at the John F Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
Now Telenor has removed both the claim to a bachelor’s degree from Telemark College and his participation in a “Bachelor Degree Program in Management” from the “Norwegian School of Management, Buskerud, Norway” from Brekke’s biographical information on its website.
“I see in hindsight that this was an unfortunate formulation,” Brekke claimed on Thursday. “I have never tried to present myself with a heavier academic background than I actually have.”
Telenor spokesman Atle Lessum told state broadcaster NRK that Brekke later finished a course at the college in Buskerud with credits that were accepted by the college in Telemark. He still lacks the two remaining credits, but Lessum said it was “important to note” that Brekke’s studies in Telemark had no bearing on his admission to Harvard “or on his long career in Telenor.” Kapital wrote that Telenor’s board didn’t check Brekke’s CV before offering him the job as CEO at the company, which now is fighting to restore its reputation and faces a crisis of confidence within the Norwegian government and Parliament because of the alleged bribery at its VimpelCom operation. Brekke is among more than dozen current and former Telenor officials who’ve been called in for questioning at a Parliamentary hearing next month. The Norwegian state still owns 54 percent of Telenor’s stock.
“This does not create confidence,” Øyvind Korsberg of the Progress Party, deputy leader of the Parliament’s committee handling business affairs, told DN. “I think it sounds quite remarkable and quite incredible to put something on a resumé that you don’t have.” Michael Tetzschner of the Conservatives, deputy leader of the supervisory committee that’s summoned Brekke and others from Telenor to the nearing next month, told DN that he doesn’t think “lying your way to a degree is a private issue.” It remained unclear whether the CV bluff would have an effect on Brekke’s future at Telenor.