Court orders Old Mutual to reinstate axed CEO Peter Moyo

Axed Old Mutual CEO Peter Moyo has won his bid against his former employer to be temporarily reinstated and his dismissal has been declared unlawful.

The Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg found that he should return to his position with immediate effect. Moyo's permanent reinstatement is pending Part B of his application which will be heard at a later stage.

Old Mutual has also been interdicted from appointing anyone to replace Moyo and was ordered to pay Moyo's legal costs.

The judgment was delayed by more than an hour on Tuesday after Judge Brian Mashile was not available to deliver the ruling. It was instead read out by Judge L Adams on his behalf.

Moyo was suspended in May and later fired as CEO of the JSE listed insurer in June. The company asserted this was due to a conflict of interest in his personal business matters. It later emerged that Moyo is also the co-founder of NMT Capital, a boutique investment company.

Old Mutual maintained he allowed dividends owed to the company as a preferential shareholder and institutional investor to slide into arrears while he received a R30m payout. Moyo, however, approached the court on July 18 to urgently reinstate him, interdict Old Mutual from filling his position and declare his dismissal unlawful and unconstitutional. 

His legal team argued that it was in fact the chairperson of Old Mutual Trevor Manuel who had a conflict of interest and Moyo was fired for raising this and acting as a “whistleblower”. 

He claimed that Manuel did not pay due diligence to corporate governance. Manuel also chaired Rothschild & Co which oversaw Old Mutual plc delist from the London Stock Exchange and list as Old Mutual Limited on the JSE in June 2018 in a “Managed Separation”. 

Moyo’s legal team also stated that he was suspended after he raised concerns that the insurance company paid for Manuel’s legal fees in his court battle to access information from Gupta owned Sahara Computers. The insurer’s legal team questioned why Moyo had signed off on the financial statements by auditors which included Manuel’s legal fees if he had in fact raised it as a red flag.

Old Mutual maintains that Manuel recused himself when the discussion took place about Rothschild & Co overseeing the multi-billion "Managed Separation". 

Tuesday’s judgment is only Part A of Moyo’s legal battle against his former company. Part B of his application, intended to be set in motion within 60 days of the outcome of Tuesday’s ruling will see him lodge a damages claim for reputational harm.

He also wants the court to declare the Old Mutual board "delinquent directors" which will prevent them from holding non-executive directorship positions for several years.