INM must publish independent review of governance row
Investors will want to know what led to protected disclosures by two executives
Independent News & Media chief executive Robert Pitt and chairman Leslie Buckley. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
What must small shareholders and analysts make of the boardroom row over an aborted Newstalk bid that has engulfed Independent News & Media?
On Tuesday morning, after INM admitted the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) was inquiring into the row, a Merrion stockbrokers note rather mischievously lauded Pitt’s handling of corporate governance surrounding the Newstalk row. It made no mention of anybody else.
Buckley, the right-hand man of INM’s largest shareholder Denis O’Brien, has so far made no comment whatsoever on the boardroom bust-up. One wonders just how long this state of affairs will remain sustainable.
The company has acknowledged that Buckley was at the centre of the row with Pitt over how much to bid for Mr O’Brien’s Newstalk. Why has he not told investors what he knows of the situation?
Not that Mr Pitt has been exactly garrulous on the topic, either. But he has, at least, made some public comments on the matter to an Oireachtas communications committee hearing.
Investors will want to know precisely what went on. To date, all they have had is a verdict of “nothing to see here” from a board subcommittee that investigated the matter following a complaint from Mr Pitt last year. That subcommittee conclusion has since been overtaken by events.
It has emerged that Mr Pitt made a protected disclosure to the State’s corporate watchdog, which is now seeking INM records. It now transpires another executive has also made a disclosure. It is unclear where the ODCE intervention will lead.
INM’s board has, however, separately appointed a senior counsel and a corporate governance expert to conduct an independent review.
It is likely that this review will be completed long before the ODCE reaches any conclusions. If investors want answers fast, the report produced by the senior counsel could well be their best bet.
Where there are concerns about corporate governance, it is imperative that these be allayed at the earliest possible opportunity. INM simply must publish the senior counsel’s independent review as soon as possible.