To­bacco di­rec­tors flout ad­dress law

Marlborough Express - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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