elderly on properties it didn’t own. But he soon clashed with Mclachlan.
In January, Nel secretly recorded a meeting with Mclachlan at a coffee shop, during which Mclachlan fumed about suing his former FD, how nonexecutive director Njabulo Mthethwa “needs to be buried” and how, when the share price fell to 2c a share, “we start supporting it to keep it at 7c”.
This recording is evidently deeply embarrassing for Mclachlan, as it forms the basis of the R44m “claim for damages as a result of defamation and losses” sent to Nel last week.
The company says: “Under the auspice [sic] of a friendly coffee invitation at a restaurant, illegally without the permission and knowledge of Mclachlan, [Nel] taped the conversation with him with the sole intention to use, distribute and cause it to be published on national television”.
Mclachlan says the excerpts of the recording aired on investigative TV programme portrayed him as “a greedy person, a thief and a fraudster, that he secretly and illegally channelled [Pembury] company funds to the account of his spouse … that he stole company assets and that he, his spouse and his son are dishonest persons, thieves and fraudsters”.
He says these claims are false and cause “injury to their good names and reputations”.
Nel told the FM this week that the lawsuit is a joke.
“I mean, R44m — where have you seen that in your life? It’s a joke, and Andrew’s a joke. These things don’t scare me. For me, the real issue is that they took R200m of old people’s money, and they messed up. They don’t care who they trample on,” he said.
It seems the purpose of the lawsuit may be simply to intimidate Nel, given the obvious legal problems with the lawsuit.
Perhaps the biggest is that, unlike the allegation in his lawyer’s letter, it isn’t actually illegal to record someone if you’re party to that conversation.
Webber Wentzel media lawyer Dario Milo, who also acts for Carte Blanche, says recording a conversation isn’t a criminal offence, even if the common law of privacy may restrict what can be revealed to the public. “Even in relation to the contents of the conversation, if they reveal a matter of public interest there would be no unjustified breach of privacy rights.”
However, when the FM contacted Mclachlan’s lawyer Marinus Hesselink and pointed this out, he said: “I’m not going to elaborate or discuss it with you — I disagree with you.”
Hesselink argued that as a direct result of the insert, the share price dropped “overnight”.
It’s true that on the Monday following its airing, the share price fell from 10c to 8c — an R8.3m drop in its R41.5m market value. But it’ll be hard to prove this was because of the TV show since, on the Thursday before the pro
Andrew Mclachlan: What was the intention of the recording?