Market shrugs off unfolding board spat as Pityana fires legal salvo on Absa’s chairperson appointment
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ABSA’S share price remained unaffected amid an unfolding board spat that saw the financial group yesterday appoint Sello Moloko as chairperson as prominent businessman Sipho Pityana late on Monday launched a surprise legal salvo against not being chosen for the position.
Pityana is the former Business Unity South Africa president and also the former AngloGold Ashanti chairperson.
The market barely reacted to the news that shocked the business and political sectors, the share price closing at R144.61.
Absa announced Moloko would be taking over from Wendy Lucas-Bull on March, 31, 2022.
Lucas-Bull announced in June that she would step down as chairperson of the Absa board after nine years.
In a statement, Absa said it conducted a robust chairman succession process, which started in October 2020. It looked at both internal and external candidates to fill the position.
“After the completion of this process, the Absa Boards resolved to nominate Sello Moloko for the position and submitted his nomination as independent non-executive director and chair to the Prudential Authority (PA) for approval. The Prudential Authority approved Moloko’s nomination, and Absa has made the appropriate announcements in this regard.”
Moloko’s appointment comes a few hours after Pityana announced he had served legal papers on the SA Reserve Bank (Sarb) Prudential Authority.
Pityana, who is the lead independent director on the Absa board, said the authority blocked him from becoming chair of Absa Bank board by conducting an informal process and consulting with third parties, including former Absa bank chief executive Maria Ramos, about whether he was “fit and proper” for the role.
Pityana said Ramos used an allegation of sexual harassment against him that dates back to 2020 while he was chairperson of AngloGold Ashanti.
Pityana said the PA did not allow him to defend himself and denied the sexual harassment allegation against him.
In response to Pityana’s allegations, Sarb said it was planning to challenge the allegations made by Pityana against its PA, which regulates the banking sector.
In a statement, the Sarb said it had acted according to its mandate and would respond fully to all matters raised through the judicial process as the formal legal process had now commenced.
Sarb said it was the responsibility of the regulated entity to nominate members of the board and is ultimately responsible for the appointment of directors of the board as well as executive officers.
“The PA has the mandate to assess the fitness and propriety of proposed appointments of directors and executive officers, and has the right and responsibility to object to an appointment based on competence or integrity of the proposed candidate,” the authority said.
“As a matter of policy we do not discuss matters related to any regulated entity in public, and the confidentiality of the entity and relevant individuals are respected following confidentiality requirements,” it added.
Absa confirmed the group was mentioned in proceedings instituted by Pityana, where he seeks a declaratory order against the PA.
“Absa is cited as an interested party, but no relief is sought against it,” it said.
Meanwhile, Absa is still without a permanent chief executive after its first black person in the position — former Reserve Bank deputy governor Daniel Mminele — left after 15 months in the job. Jason Quinn is currently Absa's interim chief executive.
BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE