Old Mutual wins appeal against order reinstating axed CEO Peter Moyo

Axed Old Mutual CEO Peter Moyo during judgement in his case against the company in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg. (Gallo Images/Business Day/Freddy Mavunda)
Axed Old Mutual CEO Peter Moyo during judgement in his case against the company in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg. (Gallo Images/Business Day/Freddy Mavunda)

Old Mutual has won its appeal against an earlier order reinstating its former CEO Peter Moyo.

The ruling was handed down by the Johannesburg High court on Tuesday morning. 

Moyo was suspended by the financial serves giant in May and axed in June, with Old Mutual citing a breakdown in trust and a conflict of interest related to NMT Capital, a boutique investment firm he co-founded. Moyo then took Old Mutual to court, with Judge Brian Mashile ruling in July that he be reinstated. Mashile argued that Moyo was supposed to be afforded a hearing or arbitration since the insurer had publicly accused him of conflict of interest and gross misconduct.

The appeal of a Mashile's ruling was heard in December by a full bench of three judges, after Old Mutual successfully applied for Mashile's recusal. 

During arguments in December, Moyo's legal team described the case as an "unwinnable" battle, saying there was no need for Mashile's July ruling to be overturned. Lawyers for Old Mutual, meanwhile, argued in court in December that Moyo was afforded a hearing before his contract was terminated in June 2019, following a suspension in May over an alleged conflict of interest involving NMT Capital.

Appeal may be in the works 

Speaking to journalists after the verdict, Moyo said he was very disappointed with the judgment, adding there was a "good indication" that he would appeal the ruling. A decision would be made soon, he said. 

"There are things that we believe create grounds for us to appeal."

Responding to the cost order against him, which is expected to be a hefty amount, Moyo said he will "take it on the nose".

The long-standing battle could be far from over, as Moyo's lawyer, Eric Mabuza, indicated that an appeal process would simply reinstate the status quo. Mabuza also stressed that the latest ruling will not stop Moyo from going ahead with Part B of his case against Old Mutual, which includes a claim for damages against the company for his dismissal.

Moyo is also pursuing a contempt of court case against members of the Old Mutual board for preventing him to return to his post following Mashile's ruling. Mabuza said a date for the hearing would be revealed soon.

Old Mutual spokesperson Tabby Tsengiwe, meanwhile, said Old Mutual welcomed the judgement as it confirmed that the company "acted lawfully in terminating Peter Moyo's contract the first time". 

Tsengiwe said the board would now go ahead with the appointment of a permanent CEO. Chief Operating Officer, Iain Williamson, has been acting interim CEO since June 2019.

The Old Mutual board said it lost trust in Moyo after it was not provided with an acceptable explanation for the declaration of ordinary dividends by NMT Capital during 2018. It stated that NMT paid a divided amounting to R115m, of which R30.6m went to Moyo, who holds 25% in the entity. The payment took place before Old Mutual, which is an investor in NMT, could be paid preference-share dividends.

- Additional reporting by Londiwe Buthelezi 

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