Old Mutual: Moyo 'spectacle' damages the economy, and our interim CEO is doing a great job

Former Old Mutual CEO Peter Moyo during an interview on August 31, 2018 in Johannesburg. (Gallo)
Former Old Mutual CEO Peter Moyo during an interview on August 31, 2018 in Johannesburg. (Gallo)

Old Mutual has slammed on-off CEO Peter Moyo, saying the ongoing dispute between him and the insurer is a "public spectacle" and an indication that Moyo "continues to place his interests ahead of Old Mutual and its shareholders".

The insurer also blamed an alleged "lack of regard for the company's interests" on Moyo's part for a loss of confidence among board members in the axed chief executive.

"Interim CEO Iain Williamson, a veteran at Old Mutual of 26 years standing, is doing a sterling job, and operationally the business continues uninterrupted," Old Mutual said in a statement on Tuesday.

"The Board would like to assure our customers, staff, investors and other stakeholders that it will do everything within its power to resolve this matter speedily and in the best interest of the company."

The drawn-out public spat between Moyo and the insurer was having a damaging effect on public morale in South Africa, Old Mutual added, saying that "public feuding at a bellwether financial services company does little to reassure South Africans that our economy is in good hands".

Moyo has been refused entry to Old Mutual's offices three times after the court ordered that he had to be reinstated. He has been fired from the insurer twice. Old Mutual believes the second axing stands.

For his part, Moyo believes the insurer is in contempt of court for blocking him from returning to work. He also reportedly plans to file an application to have Old Mutual's directors declared delinquent.

'Untenable'

While Old Mutual promised stakeholders on Tuesday that it was committed to a speedy resolution, it alleged it was "critical" to remind stakeholders that Moyo had started the feud.

"[T]his situation first arose because the former CEO violated the terms of his employment contract by placing his private financial interests ahead of the company," the statement said.

Old Mutual claimed Moyo's "unprofessionalism persists", suggesting a working relationship would be impossible. "Regrettably, Mr Moyo’s unprofessionalism persists. He has effectively admitted that the relationship with Old Mutual has irretrievably broken down and he is not answerable to the Board.

"It is difficult to see how he then believes he should resume his duties as CEO, even as the company has instituted an appeal of the original High Court finding, which will now be heard by the full bench of three High Court judges."

Old Mutual initially dismissed Moyo over an alleged conflict of interest relating to dividends from a company he co-founded, namely NMT Capital. The conflict of interest arose, according to Old Mutual, when Moyo disbursed dividends to shareholders while the Old Mutual preferential dividends, as an institutional investor, were in arrears. At the time, Moyo countered that that Old Mutual chairperson Trevor Manuel was behind his sacking.

In its Tuesday statement, Old Mutual claimed it had engaged Moyo "for months" before his initial dismissal.

'Above reproach'

"However, it became clear that he and the Board had a difference of opinion about his transgressions and how to resolve them. Following the exchange of various correspondence and a meeting where Mr Moyo was given yet another chance to address the situation, the Board, on the basis of legal advice, reached the difficult conclusion that his continued employment was untenable."

Corporate governance and management at Old Mutual should be "above reproach", it said, and claimed Moyo's actions "significantly undermined this".

Old Mutual director Nombulelo Pinky Moholi suddenly resigned late in September. In a recent interview with Business Day, Moholi had referred to Moyo as "talented” and “experienced”,  saying it was difficult for the board to conclude that it had lost confidence in him, Fin24 previously reported.

Shortly before Moholi's resignation, board chair Trevor Manuel was forced to apologise for referring to High Court judge Brian Mashile as a "single individual who happens to wear a robe" after Mashile ruled in Moyo's favour.

Fin24 also previously reported that prior to that incident, some members of the board had made progress in talks with Moyo in an attempt to end the fight. Moholi, along with fellow board members Paul Baloyi and Itumeleng Kgaboesele, were said to have led the talks with Moyo.

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