Steinhoff director defends remuneration largesse

Steinhoff supervisory board member Johan van Zyl — who with Steve Booysen and chairwoman Heather Sonn have tried to salvage the group in the wake of revelations of gross accounting irregularities — has come out in defence of proposals for the three to be paid up to €200,000 extra for their work since December’s meltdown.

The proposal that Booysen and Sonn receive an extra €200,000 and Van Zyl an extra €100,000 for “additional work undertaken” since December has been met with howls of derision by the market, in the light of the R300bn loss suffered by shareholders thanks to the collapse of Steinhoff’s share price.

Heather Sonn, who was parachuted in as chairwoman of the supervisory committee after the resignation of Christo Wiese in December, said “we cannot change the past, but to protect value for the group’s stakeholders, the company needs stability… ”

She said the annual general meeting, to be held on April 20 in Amsterdam, was the first opportunity to consider compensation, following the initial work to stabilise the firm, investigate wrongdoing and uncover the true financial position of the company.

Scathing comments regarding these special payments as proposed were aired by many asset managers, and not without reason.  If the independent directors were indeed delinquent in discharging their fiduciary duties, shareholders cannot be expected to pay for their efforts to now correct a bad situation.

On the other hand, if the management board at worst misled, or at best failed to disclose the relevant information to the supervisory board because they themselves did not know the true facts, involving the three independent directors on the basis of an extended ad hoc assignment, makes sense.

The proceedings at the AGM on 20 April will be keenly watched by many…..

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