Police have raided the once-well-regarded private communications school Westerdals in Oslo, while Norway’s white-collar crime unit Økokrim has charged it with claiming far more state financial support that it should have received. Around 700 students who also had to pay much higher tuition fees than allowed under state rules, meanwhile, have rejected a compensation offer from Westerdals’ current administrators and are moving forward with a lawsuit.
The school remains owned by Oslo company Anthon B Nilsen, which in turn is owned by two brothers in Norway’s prominent Løvenskiold family, Peder and Nicolai Løvenskiold. Westerdals’ administrators, however, were recently replaced, just months after newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) published a series of stories revealing financial acrobatics around the school that one former government minister has called “highly creative” at best, if not illegal.
The new administrators have consistently tried to distance themselves from earlier operations and a reorganization of Westerdals that was carried out by Anthon B Nilsen and backed by the Løvenskiolds. Westerdals’ new officials continued to do so this week, writing in a press release late Tuesday that Økokrim had filed charges against the school “pertaining to activity that took place around the former Westerdals School of Communication.”
The state has already demanded that the school repay NOK 56 million in public education funds to which it was not entitled. The state has also demanded that the school reimburse students, but its new administrators has indicated it can’t afford to do both. It recently offered compensation amounting to around 60 percent of what the students are owed, and some have accepted while hundreds of others have not. The offer stands through May 12.
The students’ lawyer said they would likely proceed with filing a legal claim for full compensation by mid-June, demanding NOK 83 million. Westerdals’ offer amounts to around NOK 50 million.
Westerdals current administrators promised to “cooperate actively” with Økokrim’s investigation. The alleged financial irregularities took place between 2002 and 2014.