AMP chairman quits over ‘lies’

AMP chairman Catherine Brenner has bowed to pressure to resign following damaging revelations about the giant fund manager lying to the corporate watchdog. The move is one of several responses AMP announced yesterday in the wake of the scandal unfolding at the banking inquiry.

The Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry heard that AMP had lied to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) at least 20 times.

Under intense grilling, AMP executives also admitted that a so-called independent Clayton Utz report on the company’s fee-for-no-service scandal had been tampered with.

The other actions it would take, the company announced yesterday, are:

  • appointing AMP director Mike Wilkins, who heads the audit and risk committee, as Executive Chairman until a new chairman and a chief executive are found
  • showing Company Secretary Brian Salter the door and withholding his outstanding remuneration, in what appears to be AMP blaming him for the Clayton Utz fiasco
  • reducing fees for AMP directors by 25 per cent for the remainder of 2018
  • shortly determining the job and remuneration consequences for those in the business responsible for the fee-for-no-service scandal
  • making a formal submission to the Royal Commission by Friday.

In a statement, AMP said: “The board, including the former chairman, were unaware of and disappointed about the number of drafts and the extent of the Group General Counsel’s interaction with Clayton Utz during the preparation of the report.”

While Ms Brenner said she was “deeply disappointed at the issues at hand”, she avoided apologising, saying instead she was quitting because as chairman, she was accountable for governance.

Despite the fallout, which has seen a rout of AMP shares falling by about 20 per cent over the past month, the board has exonerated itself, Ms Brenner and Craig Meller, the former chief executive who resigned 10 days ago.

“The board has received advice from Philip Crutchfield QC, Tamieka Spencer Bruce of Counsel, and Tim Bednall of King & Wood Mallesons, in relation to certain issues raised in the Royal Commission concerning the preparation of the Clayton Utz report,” AMP said.

“Having considered and assessed the matters, the board is satisfied that the former Chairman Catherine Brenner, former Chief Executive Officer Craig Meller and the other directors did not act inappropriately in relation to the preparation of the Clayton Utz report.’’

AMP’s shares are trading more than 25 per cent lower in the past month and closed at a six-year low of $4.02 on Friday, from a peak for the year of $5.47 in March, the Australian Financial Review reported.

Yesterday Mr Wilkins said the board acknowledges Ms Brenner’s leadership and “thanks her for her professionalism, integrity and dedication to the company over the past eight years”.

Ms Brenner is also a director on the boards of soft drink maker Coca Cola Amatil and building materials company Boral.

Do you think she should resign from Coca Cola and Boral as well? Is a 25 per cent cut to directors’ fees enough? What other measures should AMP take to make good for the fall out of the fee-for-no-service scandal?

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Written by Olga Galacho

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