Tobacco directors flout address law
Directors’ efforts to keep their home addresses secret look set to succeed, but some are already choosing to flout the law.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) said it favoured directors being able to put an ‘‘address for service’’ rather than their home addresses on the Companies Office public register, which is searchable online.
Directors in controversial industries such as fracking, oil drilling or tobacco particularly feared for their safety if their home addresses were known, the ministry said.
But some tobacco company directors have already decided to keep their home addresses secret, despite the requirements of the Companies Act.
Angus Mason Guerin, Alastair Mark Duncan, and Edward James Mirana are all directors of the New Zealand arm of British American Tobacco, and all list their residential address on the Companies Office register as 2 Watt St, Parnell, Auckland, which is the company’s New Zealand headquarters.
The company’s spokeswoman, Janice Thein, said it had decided not to reveal the directors’ addresses over fears for their safety.
‘‘It’s a conscious decision the business has made,’’ she said. ‘‘We have made that choice for the safety of all our directors.’’
In its consultation paper proposing to let directors keep their home addresses secret, MBIE said the Companies Act 1993 required that each company’s record included the ‘‘full name and residential address of each director’’, and ‘‘the Companies Act requires the register, including all documents on it, to be publicly accessible’’.
There are penalties of fines up to $200,000 for providing false information, and even imprisonment.
But MBIE acknowledged there were directors with legitimate security or safety concerns.
‘‘This group includes directors whose companies are high profile or whose companies are engaged in activities which some people morally object to (for example companies involved in fracking, oil drilling or tobacco),’’ it said.
‘‘These directors fear that the objection to their companies’ activities could be personally directed at them or their families, as a result of the publication of their residential address.’’
The requirement for a residential address on the Companies Register was a measure designed to help identify a director, but MBIE has a plan to introduce unique director identification numbers which could pave the way for directors to keep their home addresses secret.
Michael Midgley, chief executive of the Shareholders Association, supported the introduction of director identification numbers, and allowing directors to keep their addresses secret, providing an address for service was listed for each director.
‘‘It’s not fair on the families of company directors when truckloads of manure are left on their driveway, or their children are abused on the way to school,’’ Midgley said.
MBIE acknowledged that not all company directors were listing their correct home addresses, some in a bid to make it hard for people to link the companies they controlled.
‘‘In a few cases, directors may deliberately use a variety of residential addresses to reduce the likelihood of their company portfolio being connected,’’ the ministry said.