Teachers’ Pension Concerned With Barrick Resignations

Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, Canada’s third-largest pension manager, is concerned about the “sudden” departure of two Barrick Gold Corp. independent directors.

The world’s largest gold company said Dec. 17 that Donald Carty and Robert Franklin resigned, less than two weeks after the miner announced a board shakeup following criticism of its corporate-governance practices, including by Canada’s largest pension funds.

Carty and Franklin were the directors who contacted investors and “appeared to have the mandate to drive the board rejuvenation” and address concerns raised by shareholders, Ontario Teachers’ Chief Executive Officer Jim Leech said in an interview today at the pension fund’s Toronto headquarters. Leech retires on Dec. 31 and will be replaced by Ron Mock, currently senior vice president of fixed income and alternative investments.

“We are concerned about the resignation of the two independent members” at Barrick, Leech said. The pension plan is “trying to determine what that all means at the present time before reacting.”

Carty and Franklin didn’t immediately respond to phone messages seeking comment.

Increase Independence

“The company has announced a series of steps to rejuvenate the board and increase independence,” Andy Lloyd, a spokesman for Toronto-based Barrick, said in an emailed statement today. “We take shareholder feedback seriously and we are confident that these changes will be strongly supported by shareholders at the company’s next AGM,” he said, referring to the annual general meeting.

Barrick said earlier this month that Chairman and founder Peter Munk would step down at the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting next year and would be replaced by current co-Chairman John Thornton. The company also said directors Howard Beck and Brian Mulroney wouldn’t stand for re-election. The company said at the same time it would nominate four new independent directors, including Ned Goodman, CEO of Dundee Corp., and former University of Toronto President David Naylor.

Ontario Teachers’ initially was pleased when Barrick announced retirements and appointments of board directors because it indicated the company was listening, Leech said.

Ontario Teachers’ manages C$129.5 billion ($121.4 billion) for more than 300,000 teachers in the province.

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