Bloomberg News

Marcus Criticizes South African Bank Shareholder for Harassment

June 30, 2011

June 30 (Bloomberg) -- South Africa’s Reserve Bank has spent 385 hours responding to queries from shareholder Michael Duerr, some of which contained abusive language and amount to harassment, Governor Gill Marcus said.

The central bank has received 60 e-mails and other correspondence running into more than 160 pages from Duerr, requiring information on the bank’s operations, Marcus said at the ordinary general meeting in Pretoria today. Duerr, a German national who holds about 5 percent of the bank’s shares, dismissed Marcus’s criticism, which he said was “slander.”

Duerr and a handful of other shareholders have been pushing for greater influence over the bank and its board, which in turn accuses them of trying to profit from their shares and compromising the bank’s independence.

“Apart from the tone, language, unfounded allegations and abuse contained in his correspondence, there have been no less than 61 demands often stipulating responses expected within hours,” Marcus said. “We can only conclude that harassment appears to be the actual intention.”

Duerr has regularly disrupted the central bank’s shareholder meetings. In 2009, he clashed with former Governor Tito Mboweni, attending the annual meeting barefoot and dressed in traditional Bavarian shorts called lederhosen. At today’s meeting, he made at least five interjections.

Disruption

Marcus was also disrupted today by shareholder Arthur Boetcher, who claimed the Reserve Bank owed him billions of rands and declared himself governor, Marcus his deputy and Duerr a board member. Marcus thanked him for the comment and didn’t respond further.

South Africa’s Parliament last year approved legislation aimed at protecting the independence of the central bank and limiting the amount of influence private shareholders can wield over its operations.

The Reserve Bank is one of nine central banks around the world that have private investors. The shareholders in South Africa’s central bank are allowed to own a maximum of 10,000 shares that entitle them to 50 votes at annual general meetings. They receive a fixed dividend of 10 cents a share.

--Editors: Philip Sanders, Karl Maier

To contact the reporter on this story: Nasreen Seria in Johannesburg at nseria@bloomberg.net; Maram Mazen in Johannesburg at mmazen@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net


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