• KPMG roped in to probe suspended boss
• BPOPF P4bn cancellation will hurt Fleming – chairperson
• Karabo Petto is Fleming Interim CEO
The Board of Directors of the troubled asset management firm Fleming Asset Management Company has suspended its Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Peter Van-Riet-Lowe with immediate effect. Van-Riet-Lowe has been engulfed in a scandal with allegation of unprofessional conduct in his handling of funds under management by the firm.
The suspension follows hot on the heels of a damaging termination of the firm’s contract worth over P4 billion by the Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund (BPOPF) terminated.
This week, Chairperson and major shareholder Charles Tibone said that the board met last week and decided that Van-Riet-Lowe be forced into a “sanctioned” leave, pending investigations into events leading to the termination of the BPOPF lucrative contract.
Currently, Fleming has engaged Karabo Petto as the interim CEO and caretaker of Fleming until a time when the company decides to take substantive action on Van Riet-Lowe.
Tibone said being a company that operates as per regulations, also dealing with millions of Pula in clients’ money, they were forced to put the CEO on sanctioned leave until a time when his name is cleared, or Fleming has the full facts of what exactly transpired.
Tibone said that the board had also decided to engage private audit firm KPMG to investigate the financial dealings of Van-Riet-Lowe so as to find out what went wrong, and to also satisfy itself that during his alleged “illicit” financial dealings, he did not use money belonging to Fleming clients.
The KPMG private audit would establish exactly what Van-Riet-Lowe did
However Tibone was quick to point out that the company had air-tight controls. “Note, however, that our systems and protocols are so tight and there is no how he could have used our clients’ money. Those were his personal dealings with his personal company detached from Fleming,” Tibone said.
The KPMG private audit would establish exactly what Van-Riet-Lowe did, according to Tibone, and it would reveal how exactly he carried out the said transactions and the source of the funds would also be identified.
Tibone said currently the board could not take any action against Van-Riet-Lowe because of lack of evidence, other than putting him on sanctioned leave. He said KPMG will ask him questions as part of an investigation during his leave.
“We will take an informed decision after we get hold of the results of the audit by KPMG,” he said.
Last week, following The Business Weekly & Review’s report on the Fleming matter, the BPOPF summarily terminated the firm’s contract.
Fleming managed over P4 billion in bonds, equity funds and property funds on behalf of BPOPF. Those in the know said that BPOPF funds alone constitute over 50 percent of the Fleming Assets under Management (AUM).
The company website places Fleming’s AUM at P10 billion
The company website places Fleming’s AUM at P10 billion. If it is true that BPOPF’s contract was worth more than half of Fleming’s portfolio, then it means that 50 percent of Fleming’s business is gone.
Tibone said he did not have the company numbers on the top of his head, but he said that a loss of any major contract in a business certainly comes with its negativity.
Last week, The Business Weekly & Review reported that a senior official of the firm’s now confirmed as Van-Riet-Lowe had engaged in illicit financial transactions which could have seen him using money belonging to BPOPF and other pension funds held by the company.
The said trade allegedly done in partnership with a Stanbic Bank official , who dealt with global markets transactions. The two are alleged to have used money from BPOPF and other pension funds to conduct personal FOREX business on the side for their personal benefit.
Stanbic felt that if Van-Riet-Lowe had received good service to pay for, the payment should be directed to the bank
According to those in the know, Stanbic Bank investigators found P900 000 in their employee’s account, the sum of which he was asked to account for.
It appears he said that Van-Riet-Lowe paid him that money. With concern, Stanbic Bank, which also is Van-Riet-Lowe’s banker, asked him why he paid their employee so much money, of which he said that the payment was an unsolicited 1 percent of the good service he received in 10 years.
On the other hand, Stanbic felt that if Van-Riet-Lowe had received good service to pay for, the payment should be directed to the bank, where it would then be up to the bank to pay its employees bonuses for good performance. The Stanbic bank official has since been suspended as well pending investigations.