Race row rocks Investment Solutions

2010-05-01 12:38

A race-related scandal has hit Investment Solutions (IS), the investment subsidiary of Alexander Forbes which manages funds totalling R152 billion.

Four senior IS executives were ­exposed this week for orchestrating a plot to get rid of Unathi Ndlovu, an ­investment analyst, allegedly for her “poor ­performance”.

Five sources who asked to speak anonymously for fear of reprisals told City Press, however, that Ndlovu was manoeuvred out of the company after she ­had questioned IS’s implementation of its transformation policies, which allegedly fell foul of employment equity (EE) laws.

According to the sources, Ndlovu, who chaired IS’s employment equity forum and sat on the firm’s transformation committee, drew the ire of Glenn Silverman, the company’s chief investment officer for global business; Mark Lindhiem, local chief investment officer; Stephen Price, chief operations officer; and Derrick Msibi, the managing director, with her outspokenness on transformation issues.

“They say she was a poor ­performer, but she is an extremely bright woman. I believe she was punished for doing what she was supposed to do as an EE forum chairperson – ensuring the company complied with employment equity law,” said a source.

An e-mail leaked to City Press shows how Silverman ­conspired with Lind- hiem, Price and Msibi to force Ndlovu out after she expressed interest in heading the IS ­research team, describing her as “a wound that needs to be excised”.

In the e-mail – sent on September 24 last year to Msibi, Lind- hiem, Price and human resources head Mpume Makhubela – Silverman ­proposes to his colleagues that Ndlovu be axed before the end of November.

“I believe the damage she has done to relationships/trust at senior investment team management level is now irreconcilable and divorce is not only inevitable, it is now preferable,” wrote Silverman, adding he intended to assign to Lindhiem the task of ousting Ndlovu by November.

“The lawyers’ fees will need to be paid,” he concludes.

This suggested Silverman ­wanted the company to budget for legal fees and a possible dispute.

In the e-mail he also describes Ndlovu as “an adept politician”.

In e-mail replies Msibi, Lindhiem and Price back Silverman’s plan, with Lindhiem suggesting the best way to get rid of Ndlovu was to demote her.

“We can tell her we have no position on the team for her except at the most junior level, and then hope she ­resigns. Unfortunately she’s not ­mature enough to go amicably,” said Lindhiem.

Sources said before these exchanges, ­Ndlovu had run-ins with the company over appointing Price and Lindhiem to senior positions.

Appointing the two white executives appeared to be at odds with the firm’s EE plan, which is submitted to the labour department as required by law.

According to IS’s own employment equity plan, preference for the post of chief operations officer should have been given to a black male candidate.

The job of chief investment officer should preferably have been given to a black candidate or white woman.

Ndlovu refused to speak to City Press and referred inquiries to the firm.

Msibi confirmed the existence of the e-mail correspondence and said he ­regretted the language used by Silverman in calling Ndlovu a “wound”.

He said, however, there was no link between the e-mails and Ndlovu’s exit.

“We went through a performance hearing and we appointed an independent person to chair the hearing,” Msibi said.

“She was dismissed after she was found to be a poor performer.

“It would not be right for us to put our allegations against her into the public domain.”

On Friday Msibi wrote an e-mail to his employees to prepare them for this article, which he said “might not present IS in the best light”.

“Please refer any questions, concerns, etc to myself at the first instance. We shall keep you informed as developments unfold,” he wrote.

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