Steinhoff challenged over 'legal privilege' PAIA argument
The Financial Mail and the amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism have launched a joint application in the Western Cape High Court to compel Steinhoff to release the full forensic report on accounting failures and fraud compiled by PwC.
The application follows two separate requests filed earlier by the FM and amaBhungane under the Promotion of Access to Information Act for the 7 000-page report.
Both were refused by Steinhoff on the grounds that the report contained ‘legally privileged’ information, meaning it had been commissioned for purposes of obtaining legal advice and for use in litigation, notes a Financial Mail editorial.
The investigation, which has reportedly cost Steinhoff shareholders more than R250m and is still under way, resulted in the company admitting that its assets and income were falsely inflated by as much as R105bn.
The FM notes Steinhoff’s unfortunate attitude has sparked a number of copycat ‘investigations’, also done by auditing firms, the results of which have also been hidden from shareholders on the pretext of ‘legal privilege’.
It’s a list that includes other scandal-racked firms such as technology company EOH and sugar producer Tongaat Hulett.
This week, petrochemical giant Sasol joined the gallery.
Steinhoff confirmed it would oppose the application, again asserting the report is ‘confidential’ and subject to ‘legal professional privilege’.
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