The final weeks of November will deliver Rio Tinto’s board the opportunity to right what looks, for all the world, like a reputation-scarring wrong forced on the man who did so much to recover the miner’s financial standing.
One of the most immediate and delicate of the legacy issues facing Rio Tinto’s relatively new chairman, Simon Thompson, is whether or not to pay former chief executive Sam Walsh.
Now, you might wonder why the current chairman has any level of influence over the remuneration of an executive who left the business before Thompson joined the board and a full 19 months before the suave Oxon assumed the mantle of long-time Rio chairman, Jan du Plessis?
Well, back in late 2016 du Plessis and a Rio board pushed to the brink by a succession of regulatory challenges in the UK, US and Australia triggered by misadventures in African expansion, decided to postpone the release of shares due to Walsh under short and long-term incentive plans. The shares owed to Walsh are worth more than $US20 million ($28 million).
In a “deed of deferral” offered by du Plessis and reluctantly agreed to by Walsh, the package of shares has been subdivided and consigned two new trigger dates.