Trillian whistleblower felt 'disempowered', distrust over 'risky exposure'

Cape Town - The former CEO of Trillian Management Consulting (TMC), Bianca Goodson, has described her brief tenure at the firm as the "most disempowering that I have experienced in my career". 

Goodson was appointed the CEO of TMC on January 1 2015. 

TMC is a subsidiary of Trillian Capital Partners (TCP), which at the time in question had close Gupta associate Salim Essa as its majority shareholder. 

In her resignation letter uploaded to a whistleblowing website on Wednesday evening, Goodson said her bosses ignored her input and simply expected her to “execute instructions”.  

Her letter was first revealed in an amaBhungane investigative report published on Wednesday evening. In its report, amaBhungae lays out how Trillian earned lucrative consulting fees by allegedly facilitating access to top officials for consulting multinationals McKinsey and Oliver Wyman.

'Disempowering' 

“In the 5 months that we have been working together I have yet to experience you asking me for my opinion on any operational matter nor proactively engaged in discussions that will have impact on TMC,” wrote Goodson in her resignation letter to then TCP CEO Clive Angel. 

The letter, as well as numerous other Trillian documents which run to 66 annexures, has been uploaded to the website of the Platform for the Protection of Whistleblowers in Africa, or Pplaaf

In an overview of the documents she leaked, Goodson describes Angel, who signed her employment contract, as her “direct manager”. She also states that “Angel told me that (Salim) Essa is the 'boss'," although Trillian has denied that Essa was the de facto head of the group.  

'My views are not requested'

“Based on the way that our relationship has unfolded, I do not believe that we operate as a team but rather, I am expected to execute instructions," wrote Goodson. "Bluntly, our working relationship is the most disempowering that I have experienced in my career and demonstrates no acknowledgement of the competence and value that I can bring to this company.”

Her resignation letter sketched a situation where Goodson worked as a conduit for business deals, but was not expected to offer input on the deals themselves.  

“I find it most inconsistent that I am the conduit to get work done with these individuals yet still get your instruction on what to say, when to say it and via which medium,” she wrote.

"I am resigning because I do not believe that you are looking out for me through these risky relationships. I do not trust the manner in which you are managing my exposure to them."

Goodson questioned why her authority as TMC CEO appeared to be undermined.  

“I carry the legal liability and risk of the Directorship and am expected to hand over authority on actions that govern that responsibility! Are you serious? That is the single most significant action that demonstrates how disempowering my position is, and how you don’t trust me,” she said. 

Goodson originally prepared the documents that have now been leaked to Pplaaf, including her resignation letter, to present to Parliament’s oversight committee on Public Enterprises “with the purpose of assisting the various enquiries into 'State Capture'."

Knocked my confidence

On a written overview of the documents she leaked, Goodson states that Angel “knocked my confidence whenever I posed a difficult question, saying that I was not cut out for my responsibilities”.

She also states that, when she questioned Angel and current TCP CEO Eric Wood about the "prosperous windfall" that TCP appeared to have secured, they responded that this was due to connections. 

“I was told that TCP is fortunate to have relationships with the people that ‘open the taps’ and that ‘South Africa’s wealth should not only be in the hands of the Rupert’s and Koseffs of the world’.”

Trillian response 

As amaBhungane earlir reported, Trillian denied most of Goodson’s allegations and responded in writing, saying: “Trillian has never held itself out to be a gatekeeper of any institutions and is of the firm view that the skills base of its employees and its history of delivery was sufficient to procure work.”

Included in Trillian's response is a denial that Gupta business associate Essa was the de facto 'boss' of the company, as Goodson has stated. 

"We can confirm that the employees of Trillian were aware that Salim Essa was the majority shareholder of the company. However, Mr Essa has a number of business interests and travels extensively and entrusted the management of the companies to their respective executive teams. Mr. Essa was therefore not the 'boss' from an operational perspective," states Trillian in its response.

Trillian has also denied that it was a beneficiary of relationships with state-owned entities. "Trillian had a comprehensive and highly skilled team of consultants and financial experts whose services were provided to SOEs and private sector clients following competitive bids and quotes," it states.  

Essa, meanwhile, sold his shares in Trillian Holdings to the group's CEO Wood earlier this year. 

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