Photographer: Nicky Loh/Bloomberg

Noble Group Management Payouts Under Fire From Major Shareholder

  • Goldilocks welcomes intervention by Singapore exchange
  • Calls for independent adviser to weigh in on accounting

Noble Group Ltd. drew more fire from disaffected shareholder Goldilocks Investment Co., as the Abu Dhabi fund called for an investigation into management compensation at the embattled commodity trader.

In a statement welcoming the Singapore exchange’s demand that Noble appoint an independent adviser to opine on its restructure, the fund called for particular scrutiny of about $35 million in payouts to four top managers made even as Noble racked up nearly $5 billion in losses last year.

Goldilocks, which holds about 8 percent of the company, risks massive dilution of its stake under the restructure, which it said “unfairly favors management and penalizes shareholders as well as other minority stakeholders.”

An external media representative for Noble in London didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Goldilocks also called for the adviser’s independence to be safeguarded, and for its opinion on the accuracy of Noble’s current and past financial statements, potentially reheating the controversy over the company’s accounting practices.

Noble announced the deal to restructure $3.5 billion in debt late January, averting bankruptcy after a three-year crisis that has driven its stock to near two-decade lows. Since the rescue plan was unveiled, Goldilocks has engaged in a tit-for-tat exchange with the company that has included criticism of the proposal to hand as much as 20 percent of Noble’s equity to managers, even as existing shareholders see their holdings shrink and some bondholders get just cents on the dollar.

Goldilocks’s latest remarks also come amid uncertainty over whether Noble will pay the coupon on its 2022 bond, which is due today.

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