Tata-Mistry row escalates, no-holds-barred fight likely

World Sunday 13/November/2016 20:42 PM
By: Times News Service
Tata-Mistry row escalates, no-holds-barred fight likely

Mumbai:The Tata-Mistry feud flared up on Sunday, with the ousted chairman rebutting allegations of "drifting away" Tata companies during his tenure and hitting back at attempts to question integrity of independent directors who backed him, prompting the $102-billion group's holding firm Tata Sons to assert it will do "whatever is required" to deal with the situation.
Terming the Tata Sons' contention that group companies were "drifting away" under him as "furthest from truth", Cyrus Mistry hit out first at Tata Sons calling its criticism of independent directors, revered names in India Inc, as "truly unfortunate".
This led the salt-to-software conglomerate to assert that it will do "whatever is required to deal with the situation", hinting at a no-holds-barred battle in the days ahead.
A day ahead of the crucial board meet of Tata Motors, the group also said it is "crucially important" for the boards, including the independent directors, to "consider their views and positions ensure that the future of Tata companies is protected, taking into consideration the interest of all stakeholders".
It can be noted that the independent directors of at least two big companies from the Group, including Indian Hotels Company (IHCL) and Tata Chemicals, have backed the ousted chairman leading the holding company to question their objectives in a 9-page letter sent last week.
Mistry's first statement was a part-rebuttal of the allegations levelled against him in the statement and in defence of the independent directors. "To suggest that 'ulterior objectives' and 'clever strategy' can sway these eminent names in undertaking their fiduciary duties and in discharging the duties mandated by statute as independent directors is absolutely astonishing and really speaks of how low Tata Sons has unfortunately stooped in their public statements," a statement from his office said, in a rebuttal to the recent actions of Tata Sons.
Stating that the independent directors whose conduct has been questioned include names like Deepak Parekh, Nusli Wadia and Nadir Godrej, among others, Mistry added that it is "truly unfortunate" that independence of "stalwarts of India Inc" is being questioned.
The statement is a rebuttal to the 9-page open letter issued by the Tata Sons in which it had accused Mistry of "trying to gain control of Indian Hotels Company, whose independent directors had sided with the former chairman of Tata Sons".
"He (Mistry) has cleverly ensured over these years that he would be the only Tata Sons representative on the board of IHCL in order to frustrate Tata Sons' ability to exercise influence and control on IHCL," the Tata Sons letter had said.
Independent directors at Tata Chemicals have also backed Mistry, which has led Tata Sons to initiate action to expel Wadia from its company boards. In its letter, Tata Sons had alleged that Mistry was trying to gain control of the group's main companies and regretted its decision to appoint him as chairman four years ago. It had said the structure of the group has been "consciously dismantled so that now the operating companies are drifting farther away from the promoter company and their major shareholder".
Mistry retorted back at this on Sunday, saying these suggestions are "furthest from the truth" and added that changing the board structure was part of a plan to alter the corporate governance practices with an aim to make the salt-to-software group's companies run independently.