Old Mutual said in a statement on Friday that, while it generally does not respond publicly to allegations made in court papers, it is a matter of concern that its former CEO Peter Moyo and his legal team "appear to be following a deliberate strategy of attempting to divert attention from Mr Moyo's own actions".
"This strategy has included casting aspersions on other directors of Old Mutual by making false and unwarranted allegations directed, in particular, at the Board Chair (Trevor Manuel)," Old Mutual alleges.
Old Mutual made it clear that it intends to file answering papers to an urgent application brought by Moyo next week.
Moyo filed the application in the South Gauteng High Court in June, seeking, among other things, to be reinstated to his position and an interdict stopping the firm from filling his position. He was suspended on May 24 and axed on June 17. Moyo requested answering papers by 4 July, a deadline which was not met by Old Mutual.
In its statement on Friday, Old Mutual said that deadline was not imposed by the court and it intends to file comprehensive answering papers next week "as it is entitled to do".
At the centre of Moyo's dispute with the insurer is his relationship with NMT Capital, a black-owned investment company that he co-founded, and an alleged payment of dividends. Old Mutual Life Assurance Company, a subsidiary of Old Mutual, is an investor in NMT Capital.
Old Mutual initially suspended Moyo to investigate an alleged conflict involving NMT Capital. According to Old Mutual, it found a breach of dividend payments of R115m, of which the benefit to NMT amounted to some R31m, with no clear explanation on why the payments were declared outside of the insurer's policies.
'Regrettable and unfortunate'
Moyo said in his affidavit that friction between himself and Old Mutual started in March 2018, when he voiced concerns about what he perceived as a "triple conflict" on the part of board chair Trevor Manuel during the process of the company's Managed Separation. Manuel was simultaneously a director of Old Mutual plc, the chairperson of Old Mutual (Limited) and the chairperson of Rothschild & Co, which was one of the transaction advisers.
The process saw the company delist Old Mutual plc from the London Stock Exchange and list Old Mutual Limited on the JSE in June 2018.
"The suggestion by Mr Moyo, also reported in the media, that the Old Mutual non-executive directors are under the sway of the board chair and were incapable of exercising independent judgement in reaching the conclusion that there has been a breakdown in trust and confidence in Mr Moyo is totally without foundation," Old Mutual stated on Friday.
In the view of Old Mutual, this is not only deeply disrespectful "to the women and men of high standing, business experience and integrity who make up the Board of Old Mutual, but also regrettable and unfortunate.
"Their track record as business executives, as leaders and directors of companies is unquestionable," the statement added.
Manuel said at the time of Moyo's sacking that Old Mutual’s board felt the relationship had "become unmanageable and untenable" as they tried to navigate policies regarding appropriate disclosure and conflict of interest, Bloomberg earlier reported.