In an unprecedented move, Steinhoff’s former chief executive Markus Jooste and chief financial officer Ben la Grange could be ordered to pay back hundreds of millions to the company.
The Financial Times reported on Tuesday that Steinhoff had filed papers in the Western Cape high court in an attempt to recoup R870-million from Jooste and R272-million from La Grange. These amounts include salaries and bonuses awarded to the pair.
The company is also allegedly demanding legal costs and interest from the former executives.
According to the publication, Jooste has 10 days to respond to the court papers and La Grange has one month.
Jooste abruptly resigned from his position in December 2017 amid allegations of ‘accounting irregularities’. His resignation was followed by Steinhoff commissioning auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to investigate the accounting scandal.
The revelation led to a crash in the company’s share price, which reportedly declined by about 90%, and wiped out billions of rands of value for investors.
In its report released in March, PwC revealed that a range of “fictitious and/or irregular” transactions inflated the profits and assets of the group by over €6.5-billion between 2009 and 2017. A few executives, including Jooste and La Grange, were implicated.
The investigation also found “a pattern of communication” showing that executives “instructed a small number of other Steinhoff executives to execute their instructions, often with the assistance of a small number of persons not employed by the Steinhoff Group”.
In September last year, Jooste told the parliamentary committees on finance, trade and industry and public service and administration that he did not know about “accounting irregularities” at the global general household retailer.