Moneyweb is another step closer to accessing the shareholder registers of the three companies that today own and manage the erstwhile Sharemax Investment Properties, in which more than 33 000 people (mostly elderly) invested R4.5 billion.
The Constitutional Court denied the directors of the three companies leave to appeal against an earlier Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) ruling and order them to pay Moneyweb’s legal costs. This ruling found that a company cannot refuse anyone access to its shareholder register after a proper application in terms of Section 26 of the Companies Act. The SCA further proclaimed that Section 26 gives the applicant an unqualified right to access the register and that the motive for seeking access is irrelevant.
Dominique Haese, CEO of Nova, argued in the application for leave to appeal that the Bill of Rights should allow a company to refuse access under certain circumstances, and that the motive for accessing the registers “may” be relevant if the information will be used unlawfully.
The Constitutional Court did not agree and dismissed the application as “it lacks prospects of success”.
More than three years ago
This judgement follows Moneyweb journalist Julius Cobbett’s original application to access the shareholder registers of Nova Property Group Holdings, Frontier Asset Management and Centro Property Group in terms of Section 26 of the Companies Act in July 2013 – more than three years ago.
The directors of these companies vehemently denied Moneyweb access alleging that Cobbett and Moneyweb waged a vendetta against the directors and that the information will be used unlawfully to defame them.
There is immense public interest in this case as the registers will reveal who the shareholders of the companies that now own and manage the ex-Sharemax properties are. The investors in the Sharemax scheme were actually shareholders in the properties they invested in, but after the scheme failed, the properties were consolidated into Nova with the overwhelming number of investors becoming debenture holders in Nova.
Frontier and Centro provide management and support services to these properties.
Cobbett and Moneyweb’s application should reveal who now owns these properties.
With the announcement of the scheme of arrangement in 2011, the executive directors of the Sharemax group, Haese, Rudi Badenhorst and Dirk Koekemoer held 43.2% of Nova’s issued shares. Haese, Badenhorst and Koekemoer are now directors of Nova. Connie Myburgh is the fourth Nova director.
This Constitutional Court judgement is not only a victory for the 33 000 investors, but also for the media as Section 26 is aimed at allowing journalists to quickly and easily gain access to companies’ shareholder registers.
The three companies will have to pay Moneyweb’s legal costs for both the SCA and the application for leave to appeal to the Constitutional Court.
Haese and Myburgh did not respond to emailed questions prior to publication.