Steinhoff International has suspended former chief financial officer Ben La Grange and ex-director Stehan Grobler in the first action taken against executives by the company as part of an ongoing investigation into the retailer group’s finances following an accounting scandal.
South Africa-based Steinhoff owns multiple retail businesses in the US and Europe and is best known in Ireland as the owner of the Dealz and Poundland discount stores.
While Mr La Grange and Mr Grobler stepped down from their roles earlier this year, they remained on consultancy deals, Steinhoff said. The company appointed auditors at PwC to probe its accounts after the uncovering of irregularities triggered a share-price collapse late last year. Mr La Grange worked under Steinhoff ex-chief executive Markus Jooste, who quit when the scandal erupted.
Mr La Grange could be legally ordered to appear before a South African parliamentary committee after declining to attend a scheduled hearing next week.
The severity of Steinhoff’s accounting crisis and subsequent impact on public-sector pension funds requires Mr La Grange to be held to account, the finance committee said in a statement.
He had remained as an employee at the owner of Conforama in France and Mattress Firm in the US to help repair the company’s finances. Mr La Grange won’t attend next week’s hearing as his lawyer is unavailable, the committee said. Mr Jooste has also repeatedly refused to appear, with his lawyer saying he is no longer a Steinhoff employee. The politicians are looking into the viability of a subpoena for the ex-CEO.
Bloomberg and Irish Examiner