Steinhoff Pressured to Halt ‘Unseemly’ Director-Bonus PlansBy and
South African lawmakers appeal to retailer to postpone bonuses
Steinhoff’s ex CEO Jooste subpoenaed to appear in parliament
Steinhoff International Holdings NV, the retailer that’s lost more than 90 percent of its value since an accounting scandal erupted in December, has been urged by South African lawmakers to shelve plans to pay its directors bonuses.
This means that Steve Booysen, who has been a Steinhoff director since 2009, may not soon receive an extra 200,000 euros ($247,800). His colleagues Heather Sonn and Johan van Zyl may also have to wait for their proposed 200,000 euros and 100,000 euros bonuses respectively. Shareholders of the retailer, which has lost more than $12 billion in value, are scheduled to vote on the Frankfurt- and Johannesburg-listed company’s plans on April 20.
“We appeal to the board to not pay bonuses, or at least halt them until a future date,” Joanmariae Fubbs, a lawmaker, said in parliament in Cape Town on Wednesday. “As usual it is the individuals who lose out and the board who gets the bonuses.”
Three parliamentary committees called the hearings in Cape Town to better understand the events and the subsequent inquiries by the company and regulators. Johannesburg’s stock exchange, the Financial Services Board, the Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors and a police unit were among those scheduled to present progress reports.
“While we can’t stop the paying of bonuses, and some people have come onto the board after the fact, the paying of bonuses would be unseemly,” Yunus Carrim, finance committee chairman, said in the same hearings.
Auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, which was hired in December to probe Steinhoff’s accounting irregularities, said it plans to complete its investigation by the end of the year. It has set up 14 work streams to examine 700 Steinhoff-linked entities in more than 30 jurisdictions, Louis Strydom, who heads PwC’s African forensic services unit, said at the hearings. It’s analyzing mobile phone records and has scanned over 330,000 documents, he said.
PwC has also interviewed the top managers who were at the company when the scandal broke, except for former Chief Executive Officer Markus Jooste, Strydom said.
Jooste has been subpoenaed to speak to South African lawmakers after he failed to attend previous hearings, according to parliament. Ben La Grange, the retailer’s ex-chief financial officer, will be given 10 days to decide whether he will appear before the committees at their next Steinhoff briefing in August. He will be subpoenaed if he decides not to appear or fails to reply to requests, the committees said in an emailed statement on Wednesday.
Steinhoff, which has plummeted more than 90 percent since the accounting scandal began, rose 0.5 percent to 0.23 euros in Frankfurt.