The drawn-out legal battle between South Africa’s second-largest insurance company, Old Mutual, and its axed CEO Peter Moyo will continue into the new year with the High Court in Johannesburg reserving judgment until 2020.
According to Moyo’s lawyer, Dali Mpofu, however, the battle is as good as won. He told Fin24 he thought Old Mutual’s case was “unwinnable“.
The insurance company is attempting to appeal the high court order that Moyo must be reinstated. Judge Brian Mashile found Old Mutual should have allowed him a disciplinary hearing before accusing him of gross misconduct and firing him.
Judges Elias Matojane, Pieter Meyer and Raylene Keightley must now decide if Mashile was correct.
Old Mutual has argued that Mashile failed to deal with the fact that as an employer, the company had the right to terminate Moyo’s contract on notice. He was given six-month notice and earned R4 million, which the company said was in line with his employment contract, negating the need for a disciplinary hearing.
The CEO’s lawyers, however, maintain that he was entitled to a disciplinary process.
The Old Mutual board’s lawyer, Gilbert Marcus, introduced a new argument on Thursday, arguing for the first time that Moyo was afforded some kind of hearing.
“It is not that Mr Moyo was afforded no hearing at all; the complaint goes to the form of the hearing. He contends it had to be in a disciplinary hearing,” said Marcus.
Old Mutual’s spokesperson Tabby Tsengiwe said the CEO had several opportunities to state his side of the story.
Moyo was fired in June over an alleged conflict of interest involving NMT Capital, a private equity firm he co-founded in 2002 and in which Old Mutual has a 20% stake.
Moyo was accused by the company of declaring dividends worth R105 million at an NMT meeting he chaired on July 4, 2018, and wrongfully pocketing R30 million worth of these dividends. Meanwhile, Old Mutual said it didn’t receive dividends, breaching its rights as a shareholder.
Old Mutual applied for the recusal of Judge Mashile in another case involving contempt of court proceedings laid against the company’s board members by Moyo.
Old Mutual chairperson Trevor Manuel last month made a comment about Mashile being a “single individual who happens to wear a robe”. Moyo then introduced this as another count of contempt of court and, because of this, Old Mutual argues Mashile is now personally involved in the matter and should be recused.
Mashile has twice ruled against Old Mutual and has twice reinstated Moyo as the CEO after his dismissal.
(Edited by Daniel Friedman. Background reporting by Ray Mahlaka, Moneyweb)