Anglo American officials prevented shareholder activist Theo Botha from attending the company’s annual general meeting (AGM) in London last Thursday because they were unable to confirm that Botha had a “valid right of entry to the AGM”.
Early last week, Botha had indicated to the company that he intended raising concerns about the group’s chief executive, Cynthia Carroll, and its executive remuneration policy.
Botha, who frequently attends AGMs and has never failed to produce the correct documentation, was adamant that he had the right papers.
A lawyer described Anglo American’s move as reminiscent of the 1980s when firms resorted to all sorts of tactics to prevent trade union representatives from attending AGMs.
Botha, who is known to the Anglo American executives, had travelled to London at his own expense. He has been particularly critical of the appointment of Carroll as chairman of Anglo Platinum (Angloplat), a company that is controlled by Anglo American.
Botha told Business Report at the weekend that, faced with the intransigence of the Anglo American employees, he had no choice but to walk away.
He was not given the option of attending the meeting as a “guest” either. This option is reserved for journalists who are allowed to attend but are not allowed to ask questions.
Anglo American head of media and communications James Wyatt-Tilby said Botha’s “paperwork wasn’t right” so he could not be allowed into the AGM. He said Botha was not able to attend unless he could prove he was a shareholder or had a valid letter of proxy.
“If you deviate from that rule you would have all sorts of people attending the meeting,” he said.
In a statement, Wyatt-Tilby later said that when Botha arrived at the AGM, Anglo American’s UK registrars telephoned the South African registrars to ascertain whether the company who had provided Botha with a proxy “was indeed a shareholder” in Anglo American.
“Unfortunately, no link could be made with the register of shareholders in South Africa and it was therefore impossible for us to verify that Mr Botha had a legitimate letter of representation.”
The decision to refuse Botha entry to the meeting in any capacity was taken despite earlier e-mail communications between Botha and Anglo American’s company secretary Nick Jordan. Earlier this month, Jordan e-mailed Botha asking if he intended attending the AGM this year. Botha had attended the meeting last year.
“May I ask if you are intending to attend our AGM this year and whether
you have questions that could be answered in advance,” he wrote.
Botha replied: “I will be asking more or less the same questions I asked at the Angloplat AGM… the chief executive’s appointment as chairman of Angloplat, remuneration issues, share buybacks”. - Ann Crotty