AMP still looking pretty sick even after sackings

Chair resigns from board and controversial promotion of harassment-accused executive is reversed. But this doesn't fix underlying problems.

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AMP Limited (ASX: AMP) chair David Murray and AMP Capital chief executive Boe Pahari stepped down Monday after investor pressure arising from a sexual harassment scandal.

But it seems these supposed acts of contrition haven't satisfied.

S&P Global Ratings announced Monday afternoon that risks were still "on the downside" for the finance giant.

"In our view, the changes highlight governance challenges as well as potential dependency on key individuals within the group," the ratings agency stated.

"Most of our ratings on AMP group entities remain on CreditWatch with negative implications, where we initially placed them on June 12, 2020."

The company was under fire last week after details of Pahari's alleged sexual harassment of a subordinate were revealed.

The board's judgment was questioned as it was accused of overlooking the seriousness of the case when promoting Pahari to the plum position of AMP Capital CEO.

AMP insisted all along that the offences were "low level" and that the board took sufficient action in penalising some of Pahari's annual bonus.

But the public pressure became too much to bear. 

Resignations are self-serving

On Monday morning, AMP announced Murray's departure and Pahari's exit from the CEO role. Non-executive director John Fraser also resigned as a result of Murray's exit.

RMIT University senior lecturer Warren Staples said Murray's departure was self-serving.

"Chairman David Murray has always pushed back against public sentiment on board matters – [such as] gender quotas and responding to the Royal Commission," he said.

"Murray's decision to leave AMP is far more about his lack of interest in bowing to public pressure than it is about him taking the ultimate accountability for conduct at AMP."

Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI) chief executive Louise Davidson welcomed the resignations – but said AMP still had much to fix.

"The company must now get on with [the] job of rebuilding public confidence, and in particular, the trust of their staff," she said.

"Investors will be continuing to engage with AMP to understand how these decisions were made and how the company intends to strengthen company culture."

Corporate stars seem to get away with bad behaviour

Pahari's promotion showed a general inclination for companies to support moneymakers regardless of their behaviour, according to RMIT sessional lecturer Andrew Linden.

"Longstanding governance problems at AMP reflect a wider endemic problem across corporate Australia," he said.

"Boards and CEOs almost always back in 'rainmakers' regardless of a history of poor personal conduct at work."

Motley Fool contributor Tony Yoo has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Scott Phillips.

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