Peter Moyo has won his legal battle against Old Mutual to be reinstated as the life insurer’s CEO.
On Tuesday, the high court in Johannesburg set Moyo’s dismissal from Old Mutual aside and rendered it as unlawful — effectively paving the way for him to be reinstated as CEO.
This means that Moyo will serve the four-and-a-half years remaining on his employment contract with Old Mutual.
In a judgment delivered by judge Lester Adams on behalf of judge Brian Mashile, who presided over hearings relating to Moyo’s urgent application to be reinstated by Old Mutual as CEO, Adams said the insurer failed to follow the terms of Moyo’s employment contract when he was dismissed.
However, Old Mutual said it will immediately appeal the judgment, which will prolong the battle between the insurer and Moyo.
“The filing of the appeal will suspend the operation of the court order. Mr Moyo has been informed that he is not required or permitted to resume his duties, pending the outcome of the appeal proceedings,” Old Mutual said in a statement.
Old Mutual believes that Moyo’s court application was “ill-conceived, contained a number of false allegations, and should have been dismissed”, adding that it is optimistic that another court might come to a different conclusion.
Lester said Moyo’s dismissal by Old Mutual cannot be justified because the insurer denied Moyo a disciplinary hearing — as stipulated in his employment contract — before he was suspended and subsequently fired.
The court said Moyo’s sacking was at odds with labour laws, as Old Mutual incorrectly applied clause 24.4.1 of the Labour Relations Act as the law it relied on to fire Moyo without affording him a disciplinary hearing.
Old Mutual said it is “still studying the judgment” and will advise soon on its next move.
The high court judgment means that Old Mutual has been interdicted from appointing a CEO to replace Moyo. The company has already appointed Iain Williamson as acting CEO.
About the judgment, Moyo said: “I’m back at the office tomorrow morning at 8am. I want to go back at Old Mutual. In terms of my contract of employment, Old Mutual did not deal with it properly when dismissing me.”
Old Mutual also has to pay Moyo’s legal costs for bringing the urgent application to get his job back.
Old Mutual suspended Moyo on May 23, hours before the insurer’s annual general meeting, citing a conflict of interest due to his involvement with NMT Capital that resulted in “a material breakdown in the relationship of trust and confidence”.
The insurer fired Moyo on June 18 saying that the breakdown was attributed to a conflict over ordinary dividend payments declared by NMT Capital worth more than R100 million during its 2018 financial year. Moyo launched an urgent application at the high court in Johannesburg to declare his sacking as unlawful, which would pave the way for him to be temporarily reinstated as CEO.
When Old Mutual initially suspended Moyo, it cited a breakdown of trust and confidence between both parties. Manuel said there was no financial misconduct on Moyo’s part. The insurer later said there was a conflict of interest due to Moyo’s involvement with investment holding firm NMT Capital, which he co-founded in 2002. Old Mutual owns a 20% stake in NMT.
Moyo’s lawyers have accused Old Mutual of flip-flopping on the reasons it gave for firing Moyo and said the breakdown in the relationship between both parties was “not real” but “manufactured” by the insurer.
The judgment has endorsed arguments submitted by Moyo’s lawyers that the reasons given by Old Mutual when it first dismissed and fired him were inconsistent.
In part B of Moyo’s application, which will probably be heard in 60 days after the Tuesday judgment, he wants Old Mutual chair Trevor Manuel and about 12 non-executive directors to be declared delinquent under Section 162 of the Companies Act.
Moyo’s lawyers said Old Mutual directors neglected their fiduciary duties due to the way in which the matter was handled by the company.
Moyo said he was still pursuing part B of his application as the way Old Mutual dealt with his dismissal was “unlawful”.
Asked how Moyo’s working relationship will be with Old Mutual, the board and Manuel after he is reinstated as CEO, he said: “I’m old enough. We all work for one purpose at Old Mutual and we are not there to love each other. Work will continue.”