Ethical guidelines for employees of the Riksbank
Adopted by the Executive Board of the Riksbank on 14 November 2005.
The department responsible for this document is the General Secretariat.
An important condition for enabling the Riksbank to fulfil its objectives is that the general public has confidence in the Riksbank. Ensuring a high level of confidence requires that employees at the Riksbank meet exacting ethical requirements. These guidelines provide instructions as to how the ethical requirements should be met. They also contain information on important legal regulations.
Regulations and guidelines can not always be simple and clear. When one is faced with an ethical problem, it may therefore be useful to ask oneself the following questions:
Would I consider it embarrassing or be concerned if my colleagues found out about this?
Is this something that could be perceived as an unfair benefit that I am receiving because of my position?
Could this in any way damage the Riksbank if it were published by the mass media?
The regulations and guidelines on ethical issues discussed here are general ones. If you have any doubts, you should take up the issue with your line manager or the legal advisers at the Riksbank.
2 Insider trading
As an employee of the Riksbank you may have access to "insider” information. This refers to information regarding circumstances that have not been made public or are not generally known and which are intended to affect prices of financial instruments.
Pursuant to Article 2 of the insider trading penalty act for market abuse in financial instrument trading (SFS 2005:377), a person will be sentenced for insider trading if he or she receives insider information and through trading in the securities market on his or her own behalf or on behalf of another buys or sells financial instruments affected by the information, or if he or she influences another person through advice or otherwise to buy or sell such instruments. Article 7 of the same act states that a person who intentionally reveals information that he or she realises, or ought to realise, is insider information will be sentenced for unlawfully revealing insider information. This means that you as an employee of the Riksbank must be extremely cautious both when buying and selling securities of all kinds and in discussing with outsiders information you have obtained through your work.
3 Obligation to report holdings of financial instruments
3.1 Obligation to report
As mentioned above, the insider trading penalty act for market abuse in financial instrument trading also covers Riksbank staff. To ensure that the trading ban in this act is followed, and to maintain the general public’s confidence in the Riksbank and its employees, Chapter 9, Article 5 of the Sveriges Riksbank Act contains a provision on an obligation to report holdings of financial instruments. According to this provision, employees and contractors at the Riksbank determined by the Riksbank, as well as members of the General Council, shall report in writing their holdings of financial instruments. The same applies to changes in these holdings. There are special provisions applying to the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the General Council, as described in Chapter 4, Article 4 of the Sveriges Riksbank Act.
A report of holdings of financial instruments, and any changes in these holdings, shall be provided by all heads of department and other employees or contractors at the bank who have insight into developments on the money and foreign exchange markets. The same applies to persons who take part in the preparation of monetary policy and foreign exchange policy matters and those who have insight into the operations of financial companies. It is the heads of department who determine which employees and contractors in each department should be covered by the obligation to report. When making this decision, the head of department shall take into account the curtailment of personal integrity involved in this obligation to report and balance this against the need to protect the Riksbank’s reputation.
Each head of department shall send to the General Counsel, no later than 1 March every year, a written list of employees in the department with an obligation to report.
The heads of department shall report new employees to be included on the list as appropriate as well as employees that can be removed from the list.
If you are covered by this obligation, you must report all holdings of financial instruments. Financial instruments include mutual fund units and other rights or obligations relating to trade in the securities market. This includes shares, bonds, securities linked to shares or bonds, other derivative instruments, shares in mutual funds and depository receipts for holdings of shares in foreign companies.
Pension savings are not included in the obligation to report. This applies to both the premium pension system and to contractual pensions, as well as any private pension schemes (through traditional pension insurance policies, unit-linked insurance or individual pension savings). Nor do endowment insurance policies need to be reported.
Holdings by other family members need not be reported. However, please note that you will be guilty of insider trading if you provide advice to another person, for instance a member of your family or close friend, by using non-public information relevant to the price of financial instruments. You should therefore refrain from sharing any non-public information you may have and actively ensure that family members’ trading does not provide any cause for suspicion that confidential information has been used improperly.
The Sveriges Riksbank Act provides that any information an employee is obliged to report regarding holdings of securities will be covered by Chapter 9, Article 23 of the Secrecy Act.
If you are covered by the obligation to report, you must report your holdings of financial instruments within 14 days of taking up employment or appointment. If you have no instruments that need to be reported, you should inform your head of department of this. Subsequently, you shall report any changes in holdings within 14 days of the event. All changes (purchase, inheritance, gift, division of joint property, etc.) should be reported.
You should confirm, no later than 1 May every year, that the holdings you have reported are correct or report any changes that have been made.
A report on holdings or a change in holdings should be presented to the General Counsel. The General Counsel will also maintain a list of all persons covered by the Riksbank’s obligation to report.
If you do not know whether you are covered by the obligation to report, you should ask your department head. Other questions, for instance, what should be reported, can be answered by the General Counsel.
3.2 Investment recommendations for those obliged to report
Holdings of financial instruments should be long term. This means that they should not be sold less than three months after their acquisition. However, a sale may be made earlier if shares are sold at a market rate lower than the acquisition price, when shares are sold according to the conditions in a public offer to buy shares or if the sale refers to allocated issue rights. The recommendation of holding for at least three months does not apply to the sale of holdings acquired through inheritance, division of joint property or gifts. If you have strong reasons, due to circumstances beyond your control, for selling financial instruments earlier than three months after their acquisition, you should discuss this with the General Counsel before selling them.
If you have an obligation to report, you should also refrain from transactions in financial instruments during periods when your employment at the Riksbank gives you special advantages in assessing price developments.
In addition, you should not have holdings in Swedish credit institutions. However, this does not apply to holdings of shares in Swedish credit institutions through holdings in certain mutual funds. Please note that the insider trading legislation also applies to trade in shares in foreign credit institutions, although these are not covered by the Riksbank's recommendation. It should also be pointed out in this context that all employees with particular insight into credit institutions’ operations are recommended to refrain from transactions in other shares that may be affected by the credit institutions' position and results.
If you gain insight into decisions on steering interest rates or the Inflation Report, you should refrain from investments in the fixed income market and from taking out or cancelling loans prior to publication of the decisions/reports. If such transactions cannot be avoided, you should invest or take out loans at a variable interest rate.
Foreign exchange transaction connected with making trips abroad, owning property or other assets abroad or your family living abroad is not covered by this recommendation. In other cases you should observe the same regulations for investment in foreign currency as apply to other fixed income investment prior to the publication of an Inflation Report.
4 Secondary occupations
4.1 General comments on secondary occupations
Secondary occupation means in principle any occupation, whether temporary or permanent, carried out alongside your employment and not attributable to private life. It is insignificant whether the occupation refers to another employment, assignment or own business, or whether or not there is economic remuneration involved. However, managing one’s own affairs and those of one’s family is not classed as a secondary occupation.
Special requirements of objectivity and integrity are made of those working in public service. Article 7 of the Act on Public Employment (1994:260) contains a general ban on secondary occupations that could be harmful to public confidence. This provision entails that an employee may not have any occupation or work or exercise other business that could damage confidence in his/her or another employee's impartiality in state service or that could damage the reputation of a public authority. The Riksbank’s Rules of Procedure also refer to this provision. There are special rules on external assignments for members of the Executive Board in Chapter 3, Article 1 of the Riksbank Act.
Another type of prohibited secondary occupation is that which the employer considers to prevent you from completing your regular work in a satisfactory manner. There are regulations in the collective wage agreements regarding prohibited secondary occupations that hinder regular work.
4.2 The concept of secondary occupations harmful to public confidence
A secondary occupation does not need to entail improper action or intentions of improper action on your behalf in order to be prohibited. It is sufficient reason if there is a risk that the general public might question the objectivity of the Riksbank's operations or your own impartiality.
It is not possible to specify exactly which occupations are prohibited. An assessment must be made for each case. It can generally be said that only a low risk level can be accepted.
In general, the more qualified, extensive and well-paid a secondary occupation, the greater the reason to question it.
If the secondary occupation contains work tasks similar to those you carry out at the Riksbank, there is a greater risk of damaging confidence than if there was no connection. Similarly, there is a greater risk when the company for which you carry out the secondary occupation has interests that are in some way connected with the Riksbank's operations. The scope of the secondary occupation is also significant. Employment and assignments, including seats on boards of directors, within private companies are in the risk zone. The same applies to self-employment, for instance as a consultant.
An assignment on behalf of another public authority often has a low risk level, as public authorities rarely compete or have differing interests. Holding posts of a trade union, ideological or political nature is usually permissible. If an assignment in a non-profit organisation involves your being responsible for management of funds or any commercial part of the operations, you should show caution. If, for instance, you are on the board of your tenant-owner association, you should not provide advice or take part in decisions regarding the investment of loans.
4.3 Information and decisions in questions concerning secondary occupations
According to the regulations in the Act on Public Employment, you are obliged to provide on request information to the Riksbank on any secondary occupations. In addition, this act prescribes that if the employer makes the assessment that an employee has, or intends to take on, a secondary occupation that could damage confidence, the employer shall decide that the employee shall resign from or refrain from taking up this secondary employment. However, a written motivated decision is only required if you have announced that you do not intend to resign from the occupation or intend to take up an occupation that is not permissible. It is possible to appeal against such a decision in the Labour Court.
4.4 Regular annual reporting of secondary occupations
As soon as you have any doubts about whether a secondary occupation that you intend to take on is compatible with your employment at the Riksbank, you should report it at once to your line manager. In addition, you should report any secondary occupations no later than 1 May every year to your line manager.
You shall report all of your secondary occupations, apart from those of an entirely private nature or that evidently lack significance for confidence in the Riksbank, to your line manager.
If you do not want to provide more detailed information about the work for various reasons, you have the right to only report what type of occupation is involved.
You shall normally provide your line manager with information on secondary occupations by word of mouth. If you prefer, you may of course provide the information in writing instead. However, you should be aware that this written information about your secondary occupations will become a public document at the Riksbank.
If there is any doubt regarding whether a secondary occupation could damage confidence, then one of the legal advisers at the Riksbank should be consulted. In cases where it may be necessary for a written decision regarding whether a secondary occupation is unlawful, it is the duty of the General Counsel to make the formal decision.
4.5 Reimbursements for lectures
As employees of the Riksbank we sometimes receive offers to participate for a fee as speaker/lecturer at seminars providing information about the Riksbank's operations, etc. Normally, this type of activity can be seen as utilising your professional competence and being carried out in the line of duty, without any special fee being received. However, it may be in the interest of the Riksbank that more extensive tasks, occasionally even those with a commercial element, are carried out while on duty. If reimbursement is made, it should go to the Riksbank. As a lecturer from the Riksbank you should not normally receive compensation for travel and hotels from the organiser; the Riksbank pays for these. This is natural as the lecture is in the line of duty and to avoid any suspicion that the Riksbank or an individual employee is under any obligation towards an individual company.
It may also be the case that it is not considered in the interests of the Riksbank for an employee to give such a lecture or similar, or that it is not considered particularly important. In this case, the lecture should be held during the employee’s free time (perhaps during holidays or leave of absence). Any remuneration or compensation of costs would in that case fall to the employee, but the assignment should be regarded as a secondary occupation and examined according to the guidelines applying to the assessment of whether a secondary occupation could hinder regular work or damage confidence.
The Administrative Procedure Act (1986:223) contains provisions on disqualification aimed at ensuring that matters are dealt with in a businesslike and objective manner.
Pursuant to Article 11 of the Administrative Procedure Act, a person dealing with a matter can be liable for disqualification if the matter concerns him/herself, or a person close to him/her, or if the outcome of the matter can be expected to involve a particular gain or loss to him/herself or a person close to him/her, or if he/she or a person close to him/her represents the person the matter concerns or represents another person who can be expected to experience a particular gain or loss from the outcome of this matter. Similarly, the person handling this matter can be liable for disqualification if there is otherwise any special circumstance that is intended to damage confidence in his/her impartiality on this matter. A "safety valve" has been added to the second paragraph of Article 11 of the Administrative Procedure Act, which makes it possible to ignore liability for disqualification where appropriate. Pursuant to Article 12 of the same act, a person liable for disqualification should not be responsible for this matter. A person who is aware of a circumstance that could be perceived as disqualifying him/herself should report this.
If you are affected by the matter concerned in any way other than your capacity as representative of the Riksbank, or if you can be suspected of wishing to pursue an issue in a certain way for personal reasons, or if there is any special reason that could damage confidence in your impartiality, you should refrain from handling the matter. This could apply, for instance, if you have participated in a drafting committee that results in a report that the Riksbank is to discuss as a consultation document.
You are responsible for informing your line manager if there is any circumstance that might disqualify you.
6 Publicity and confidentiality
Chapter 2, Article 1 of the Freedom of the Press Act (TF) states that for the promotion of free debate and comprehensive information, every Swedish citizen should have the right to see public documents. Pursuant to Chapter 2, Article 2 of TF, this principle of public access to official records should only be restricted if so stated in a special law or referred to in another law. The special law referred to here is the Secrecy Act (1980:100). This contains provisions on which public documents held by central government authorities and local government authorities are regarded as confidential.
The Secrecy Act regulations apply to all employees of the Riksbank. With regard to assignments covered by professional secrecy, you are obliged to observe the secrecy regulation not only during your period of employment at the bank, but also after your employment has ceased.
All employees should be aware of the regulations that apply to publicity and confidentiality in the Riksbank’s operations. There is an information leaflet on this that all new employees receive, and you as employee can also read this information on the intranet, Banconätet. This describes in more detail the rules concerning publicity and confidentiality, including which professional secrecy provisions apply at the Riksbank.
The Secrecy Act contains a number of provisions that are applicable to different areas of the Riksbank’s work. You must be familiar with the provisions applying to the information at the Riksbank to which you personally have access. If you are uncertain, you should speak with your line manager or contact one of the Riksbank’s legal advisers.
It is important to know these secrecy regulations, as the Riksbank's Rules of Procedure prescribe that matters concerning giving out public documents held by the Riksbank should be determined by the official responsible for the document. If a document is not made public, the person who has requested a copy has the right to receive a written refusal. It is the General Counsel or a legal adviser appointed by the General Counsel who takes such a decision.
Pursuant to Chapter 20, Article 3 of the Penal Code, a person who reveals or unlawfully utilises any information he/she is obliged by law or other constitution to keep secret can be convicted of breach of professional secrecy.
It follows from the principle of freedom of communication, which is established in Chapter 1, Article 1 of TF, that it is to some extent possible to provide information normally classified as confidential for publication in a printed document. The decisive factor is that the information is given for publication. However, for most of the information classified as confidential at the Riksbank a qualified professional secrecy applies, which means that the professional secrecy takes priority over the freedom of communication. This applies, for instance, to information regarding monetary policy, such as the Inflation Report and interest rate decisions, to information on security and surveillance measures, such as cash transports.
7 Gifts, fringe benefits, etc.
7.1 Bribery and corruption
It may happen that you as official at the Riksbank are offered fringe benefits and gifts during your external contacts. You must exercise great caution here, bearing in mind the regulations on bribery and corruption contained in Chapter 17, Article 7, and Chapter 20, Article 2, of the Swedish Penal Code.
Pursuant to Chapter 17, Article 7 of the Swedish Penal Code, a person who gives, promises or offers bribes to another as undue reward for exercise of duties is liable for conviction for corruption. Chapter 20, Article 2 of the Swedish Penal Code states that employees who, on behalf of themselves or another, accept or request bribes or other undue reward for exercising their services can be convicted of accepting bribes. A bribe may consist of, for instance, cash, gift tokens, discounts, meals, accommodation, trips, loans under conditions better than market terms or tickets to a show or sporting event.
Sweden has stringent legislation in this field. It is particularly important to exercise caution in the public sector.
7.2 General comments on gifts and fringe benefits
A gift is unlawful if it is not a natural part of, or does not have an immediate relation to, the recipient's exercise of his/her duties, or is not an expression of a generally accepted form of social intercourse. Benefits given to a husband/wife or other intimate can also be classified as unlawful rewards.
When investigating cases, consideration is given to, for instance, the strength of the connection between the benefit and the exercise of duties, the nature and value of the benefit and the relationship between the parties concerned. The decisive factor as to whether a benefit should be considered unlawful or not is usually its financial value. Benefits of little financial value cannot be regarded as unlawful. It is not possible to state a definite financial limit; the value of the gift from the recipient’s point of view is the decisive factor, i.e. what it would cost the recipient to purchase the gift or benefit.
The most common presents given in working life are of little financial value, such as Christmas presents in the form of flowers, chocolate, books, ornaments, etc. It is usually said that employees in government service may not accept presents with a value exceeding SEK 400. When celebrating 50th birthdays, etc. it may be possible to accept a higher value.
When you are responsible for an item of business, you should never accept gifts or complimentary benefits from the person affected by the business. Even if there is little risk that you would be affected by the gift, such an action would be unlawful. It is often better to refuse rather than to accept a gift if you have any doubts at all, even if the value of the gift is considerably lower than SEK 400.
However, there is still a possibility that you may at some point receive a gift or complimentary benefit that is actually too expensive to accept, but that you cannot refuse for reasons of politeness. This can apply, for instance, to gifts between central banks. You should report any such gift to your line manager, who will ensure that the gift is dealt with on behalf of the Riksbank and added to the inventory of property belonging to the Riksbank.
You can usually accept ordinary lunches and dinners in connection with work. Sometimes it is possible to accept a higher price for a meal than a normal business lunch; for instance, on the occasion of a trade association's AGM or an institute's anniversary celebration. If you have any doubts, you should always discuss the matter with your line manager.
7.3 Complimentary benefits
With regard to other benefits, such as taking part in a seminar that includes additional events paid for by the organiser, for instance, in the form of a golf game or sightseeing trip, you should exercise great restriction. If it is an event in which it is important for the Riksbank to participate, the bank should pay the employees' costs, both travel expenses, hotel, etc. and any additional events. If it is not possible to ascertain the direct costs of the benefits, then the Riksbank should pay a standard cost calculated on the market value.
However, there may be exceptions, for instance concerning events organised within the central bank sphere, when it might be difficult to insist that the Riksbank pay its employees’ costs. In certain cases, when the Riksbank employee actively participates in an event arranged by an international organisation, such as the IMF, the BIS, the World Bank, the EU/ECB, or by governmental or non-commercial organisations, there may be reason to allow the organisation to stand for greater costs than would be accepted with regard to, for instance, institutes that have a counterparty relationship with the Riksbank.
The Riksbank should be restrictive with regard to entertainment, particularly where alcohol is concerned. The Riksbank’s guidelines regarding the rules applying to entertainment can be found on the intranet, Banconätet.
With regard to using Riksbank property, such as telephones and PCs, for private purposes, good judgement should be exercised and the property used very sparingly, or paid for.
9 Infringement of these guidelines, etc.
Infringements of these guidelines or other regulations referred to in these guidelines that impose obligations on Riksbank employees can lead to various forms of sanctions. Some infringements may lead to the employee being convicted of a crime, for instance, official misconduct or breach of professional secrecy. He or she may also be dismissed or given notice. In the case of less serious infringements, there may be disciplinary measures for dereliction of duty.