/ 27 September 2019

Axed Moyo meets with Old Mutual shareholders

Peter Moyo was initially suspended as chief executive in May and fired in June
Peter Moyo was initially suspended as chief executive in May and fired in June, with Old Mutual citing a breakdown of trust and conflict of interest. (Supplied)



Fired Old Mutual chief executive, Peter Moyo says he has met with at least five of the JSE-listed company’s institutional investors in a bid to resolve the bitter spat between himself and his on again, off again employer.

Moyo told the Mail & Guardian earlier this week that some of the financial services giant’s shareholders had requested to meet him in order “hear [his] side of the story” of the bitter boardroom battle between him and Old Mutual. Although he remained mum about the names of the investors he met, Moyo said he had met the “five reasonably big” investors over the course of his ongoing fight with Old Mutual.

Earlier this month, Old Mutual board chairperson Trevor Manuel said shareholders had raised concerns about the dispute with Moyo and called for a resolution to end the impasse.

Manuel told journalists at a press conference that several shareholders had sent letters to the board requesting that the company find a resolution to the nearly four-month long battle with Moyo. Manuel, however, said that shareholders advised that no financial settlement be put on the table to resolve the matter.

Speaking to the M&G, Moyo said that he found it “strange” that Manuel would claim that shareholders were against settling the matter through financial means. “I don’t know whether he saw the same shareholders but they told me something very different to him. All of them said that it makes sense to settle and all of the were actually clear that there [could be] a financial settlement,” he said.

The Public Investment Corporation (PIC) — which manages more than R2-trillion in assets, including the Government Employees Pension Fund, and is Old Mutual’s largest shareholder with a 10.8% shareholding — confirmed that it had met Moyo and the assurer regarding the matter.

PIC spokesperson Deon Botha, however, said he could not divulge further details of the discussions, as the matter is pending in the courts.

Cape Town-based asset manager, Allan Gray — which has a 9.8% shareholding in Old Mutual, and is the company’s second-largest shareholder — has stood on the side of Old Mutual in the ongoing dispute.

Portfolio manager Jacques Plaut said that Allan Gray has not met Moyo since he was suspended, adding that the Old Mutual board is “following the correct course of action”.

“We believe company boards, as shareholder representatives, should be able to dismiss executive officers and there should be no need for cash settlements,” Plaut said.

The dispute between Moyo and the 174-year-old company played out once again in full view of the public this week. On Monday, Judge Brian Mashile granted permission for Old Mutual’s second notice of termination be admitted as part of evidence.

Moyo requested that the notice be presented as further evidence proving that Old Mutual had been in contempt of court when the company issued the termination notice in August 2019, despite a court ruling ordering his temporary reinstatement. Judge Mashile granted Old Mutual 10 days to file papers explaining why its directors are not in contempt of court for Moyo’s second dismissal.

The fight moved to Old Mutual’s Sandton offices on Wednesday, when Moyo was barred by the company for the third time from resuming his duties, despite court rulings on July 30 and September 6 that he be permitted to return to work.

Old Mutual stuck to its guns, though, saying in a statement that “his services are neither permitted nor required, as the second notice of termination given to him on August 22 remains valid”.

Moyo was initially suspended as chief executive in May and fired in June, with Old Mutual citing a breakdown of trust and conflict of interest. Old Mutual has accused Moyo of unlawfully pocketing R31-million in payment of ordinary dividends by NMT Capital, the investment firm that Moyo co-founded.

Old Mutual, which has a 20% stake in the company, claimed in court papers that the ordinary dividends were declared and paid to Moyo without sufficiently providing for and servicing Old Mutual’s preference shares as required, an allegation that Moyo disputes.

“Old Mutual did receive its ordinary dividend. When they asked for the preference dividend the executives at NMT told them that about a redemption period which they accepted. Only in October [2018] when NMT put its proposals to Old Mutual, the company requested to be paid the preference dividend,” Moyo said.

Thando Maeko is an Adamela Trust Business reporter at the Mail & Guardian