BusinessCompany NewsMorrisons says no to non-execs

Morrisons says no to non-execs

A FTSE-100 company is standing by its decision not to appoint non-executive directors to its board or establish an audit committee despite intense public concern over corporate governance in the wake of accounting scandals such as Enron and WorldCom.

Accountancy Age

has learned Wm Morrison, the supermarket chain and one of the largest companies in the country, is however ‘reviewing’ its stance after investors were advised not to vote for the company’s annual report and accounts.

The news emerges as board members across UK plc await the conclusions of the Higgs Review into non-executives. In Morrisons’ accounts, published in March 2002, it admitted it did not have non-executive directors. It said: ‘The board is currently of the opinion that there is no commercial benefit in appointing them.’

Morrison group accountant Bohdan Danylczuk said the supermarket giant believes non-executive directors are ‘not of use’ to it. But he added: ‘The situation is under review at the moment. We may or may not change it.’

Morrisons’ position has raised concerns with governance monitor Pensions Investment Research Consultants which has advised shareholders to vote against the company’s annual report and accounts.

Stuart Bell, research director at Pirc, said the accounts were ‘clearly out of step’. ‘We have made communications with Morrisons and we would encourage them to have non-executives,’ he added.

Bell warned that shareholders may be happy while Morrisons is making money but might change their tune if the company hits bad times.

Daniel Summerfield, corporate governance executive of the Institute of Directors, expressed concerns over Morrisons’ corporate governance position. He said categorically: ‘All large listed companies should have independent non-executives.’

He explained it was key to have an independent objective impartial party monitoring the board and advising on strategy. A spokesman for the Financial Services Authority said Morrisons, which is 100 years old and has never had non-executives, was fully compliant with listing rules.

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