Fonterra panel scrutiny questions remain

ANDREA FOX
Last updated 08:21 27/11/2012

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A question still hangs over whether one of the most controversial aspects of Fonterra's farmer-director elections, the candidate assessment panel (CAP), will come under scrutiny as part of a governance review under way at New Zealand's biggest company.

The panel screens candidates for their suitability to be a director in a voluntary process, and gives Fonterra farmer voters its verdict before close of annual voting.

Complaints of potential conflicts of interest have dogged the panel over the years and have convinced more than one candidate never to stand again.

This year is no different with farmer- shareholders noting that panel member Fonterra chairman Sir Henry van der Heyden and candidate Michael Spaans are fellow shareholders in two companies, Pascaro Investments, and Chile- registered Manuka, and that Spaans and panel member John Spencer are directors of industry good organisation DairyNZ.

But co-chairman of the governance review, Malcolm Bailey, said it was "too early" to say if CAP would be re- examined.

The review started at least six months ago and has been offered by farmer watchdog the Fonterra Shareholder Council as the main reason it is not recommending farmers at next month's annual meeting support a farmer resolution seeking to cement the number of farmer directors on the Fonterra board. Council chairman Ian Brown said the resolution was premature given the joint company-council review.

Eleven candidates, including two director incumbents, Fonterra chairman- elect John Wilson and Nicola Shadbolt are contesting three board vacancies.

Results will be announced on December 17, the day of the annual meeting in Hamilton. The CAP panel this year comprised independents jointly appointed by the council and Fonterra - appointments, Spencer, chairman of KiwiRail and a former chief executive of NZ Dairy Group; veteran company director Bill Falconer; and accountant Elizabeth Hickey a former member of the Securities Commission. Brown and van der Heyden represented the council and Fonterra on the panel.

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- Waikato Times

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