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Noregs Banks historie i eit langsiktig juridisk perspektiv

The history of the Norwegian Central bank in a legal long term perspective

Ola Mestad, f. 1955, lic. juris 1985, dr. juris 1992, professor, Det juridiske fakultet, Universitetet i Oslo.

I historia til Noregs Bank har organiseringa vore viktig for å oppnå sentrale mål som monetær stabilitet og samstundes iallfall ein viss grad av politisk kontroll. Dette blei søkt nådd ved å la banken frå 1816 vere eit privat aksjeselskap med spesielle styringsordningar. Men stillinga til private aksjeeigarar var verna av grunnlova på ein måte som la skrankar for seinare politiske initiativ. Då staten overtok alle aksjane i 1949, blei det i staden spørsmål om ein særleg grunnlovsregel gav regjeringa krav på å kunne kontrollere og instruere banken. I den seinaste tida står dette opp mot den nyare internasjonale tendensen til at sentralbankar er meir uavhengige.

The main feature of the article is an analysis of the different legal structures used through the two-hundred year history of the Norwegian Central Bank (Norges Bank) and the legal constraints that those structures establish when seen in the context of constitutional law. In the Norwegian Constitution of 1814, no provision on a central bank was adopted, even if it had been proposed by several drafters. However, in the autumn of the same year, in preparation for the forced union with Sweden, a provision was put into the Constitution to preserve Norway’s monetary and banking autonomy against the possible amalgamation of institutions by Sweden. In 1816 Norges Bank was then founded based on international models as a private limited liability company with a monopoly to issue bank notes. The choice of organization was based on the goal of monetary stability. Since the establishment had to follow a forced model to establish the joint stock in the form of a silver fund, special rules on the organization were adopted, giving Parliament (the Storting) the right to appoint all members of the governing bodies of the bank. The shareholders, however, were the sole recipients of dividend at the outset. The article studies the different limitations that the constitutional protection of shareholders put on monetary policy. In 1949, an expropriation statute was adopted that, against compensation, transferred all shares to the state. This again raised questions of the constitutional prerogative of the government to control and instruct the management of state property. The prerogative question has two sides: one with respect to the role of the Storting, and another with respect to the independence of the bank itself. Recently the latter question has again come to the forefront, partly due to newer international policy trends of independent central banks.

Key words: Independent Central Bank, Joint Stock Company, Royal Prerogative, Norwegian Constitution, Constitutional protection
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