It's the biggest embarrassment perpetrated by a European sell-side analyst since the Paul Donovan "Chinese Pig" fiasco.
A pair of senior Nordea analysts have been suspended due to a retracted research report that raised questions about vaccines, lockdowns and other aspects of the COVID response that the bank's management has said should be left up to the "authorities" to decide. At one point, the two strategists criticized European officials who were calling for extended lockdowns "lockdownistas.
Here's more from Bloomberg:
Nordea Bank Abp has suspended two senior analysts from publishing after retracting a controversial research note in which they referred to governments battling Covid-19 as “lockdownistas” and questioned the efficacy of the vaccines.
"We have initiated an internal review, and the two analysts will not write or publish during the review," the Helsinki-based bank said on Friday.
The Nordic region’s biggest bank on Wednesday removed the note by Chief Analyst Martin Enlund and Global Chief Strategist Andreas Steno Larsen from its website, after it caused a stir on Twitter and a member of the Finnish parliament, Mikko Karna, questioned its contents. Among the statements made in the note was that “the vaccine is apparently so good that you need to force people into taking it.”
Even if they're used to illustrate a point, or simply as a sarcastic quip, when it comes to vaccines, jokes about "bodily autonomy", "lockdownistas", prison colonies, and showing "papers" - or anything implying that anti-vaxxers are being unjustly singled out for persecution - are simply not allowed.
Nordea has apparently learned its lesson, as the two well-respected analysts have been dumped overboard. Martin Persson, head of Large Corporates & Institutions at Nordea, apologized for the note, saying the Helsinki-based bank will continue to "publish credible analysis and research with integrity."
And when it comes to COVID, it would continue to delegate to the authorities on all matters of COVID policy.
"As a bank, our expertise is banking - supporting and advising our customers on their financial situation," Persson said in a statement. "We leave medical advice to the experts and therefore, as a company, we follow the authorities' guidance on vaccines against COVID."
When the note was first published, it caught the attention of several Finnish notables, including one Finnish PM.
Siis mitä h*lvettiä @Nordea @Nordea_FI? Oletteko palkanneet jonkun ylilaudalta tai jostain FB:n rokotekriitikkoryhmästä kirjoittamaan viralliset uutiskirjeenne? Onko tämä todella Nordean virallinen linja? Olen aivan järkyttynyt. pic.twitter.com/Rp9IQir20A— Mikko Kärnä (@KarnaMikko) November 24, 2021
Enlund, 45, joined Nordea in 2014 as chief analyst, but previously worked at Svenska Handelsbanken for nine years doing economic analysis. Steno Larsen has spent more than 10 years at Nordea in various foreign exchange market roles, working his way up the ranks before becoming chief global strategist on macro, FX and rates in February 2020.
Both have frequently criticized official responses to the pandemic both in their research, and on Twitter. And while the Finnish government is surely an important client for Nordea, shouldn't the bank's analysts at least occasionally focus on trying to educate clients, rather than appeasing the government?