S.African court rules Old Mutual does not have to reinstate ex-CEO

Workers clean windows outside the Cape Town headquarters of Anglo-South African financial services company Old Mutual, March 7, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – A South African High Court ruled on Tuesday that Old Mutual does not have to reinstate its sacked chief executive Peter Moyo, a shift in legal fortunes for the country’s No.2 insurer that pushed its shares up almost 4%.

Old Mutual has been locked in a dispute with Moyo since it suspended him in May 2019 over an alleged conflict of interest. He was fired the following month then temporarily reinstated by the courts in July in a ruling that also blocked the insurer from seeking a replacement.

The written judgement on Tuesday said that the interim order temporarily reinstating Moyo should not have been granted in the first place. “The irreparable harm which Old Mutual… its shareholders, employees and other stakeholders stand to suffer if the interim interdict is allowed to stand, requires no imagination or elucidation,” it said. Moyo said in a statement he was still studying the judgement.

“There is a very, very good chance that we are actually going to appeal,” he said, while his lawyer added he would proceed with a longer case against his dismissal, in which Moyo is seeking permanent reinstatement or damages. The decision means Old Mutual will not be forced, for now, to work with a CEO whose reinstatement it has repeatedly said is “untenable”. A spokeswoman for Old Mutual said it was vindicated, and the board was now mandated to seek a new CEO. It marks the first significant win for Old Mutual after a series of embarrassing losses that have rocked confidence in one of South Africa’s oldest companies and knocked over 10% off its share price. Some shareholders were concerned that Moyo’s dismissal was sloppily handled and that the drawn-out public battle was distracting from day-to-day operations. The company’s shares were up 3.36% by 0908 GMT.

Editing by Tim Cocks and Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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