‘Stuck in the 80s’: 3 AMP bosses have resigned from their positions after months of scrutiny over the handling of a sexual harrassment case

Boe Pahari (right) has stepped down after pressure over the handling of a sexual harrassment case brought against him by Julia Szlakowski (left).
  • AMP has announced three shock resignations from the top of the organisation after facing months of pressure over the handling of a sexual harassment complaint.
  • Chairman David Murray has stepped down from his role, director John Fraser will resign, and AMP Capital chief executive Boe Pahari will be demoted.
  • The company has been under intense scrutiny since it was revealed that Pahari was promoted despite allegations of sexual harassment.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

Australian bank AMP and global investment manager AMP Capital have been struck by another string of top-level departures amid ongoing controversy.

The embattled company announced three of its most powerful men were stepping down on Monday following substantial pressure after an Australian Financial Review (AFR) investigation into its handling of a sexual harassment case.

“AMP needs to continue its transformation under chief executive Francesco De Ferrari with the support and confidence of its investors, institutional clients, employees, partners and clients, without distractions,” chairman David Murray said in a statement announcing he would step down immediately.

He will be replaced by Debra Hazelton, while director and former Treasury secretary John Fraser will depart his roles at AMP and AMP Capital.

Meanwhile, Boe Pahari, chief executive of AMP Capital and the man at the centre of the sexual harassment case, will be demoted but remain at the company.

“The Board has made it clear that it has always treated the complaint against Mr Pahari seriously. My view remains that it was dealt with appropriately in 2017 and Mr Pahari was penalised accordingly,” Murray said.

“However, it is clear to me that, although there is considerable support for our strategy, some shareholders did not consider Mr Pahari’s promotion to AMP Capital CEO to be appropriate.”

The ‘appropriateness’ of that promotion has been brought into the spotlight by AFR reporter Michael Roddan who revealed that a sexual harassment claim had been brought against Pahari prior to his promotion to the top job at AMP Capital.

An independent review of the complaint ended with Pahari being penalised $500,000 but no further action was taken and the report was not released, even to Julia Szlakowski, the former employee and complainant.

Her allegations include that Pahari discussed his “limp dick” when she refused to buy clothes with his credit card, called another employee a “fag”, pressured her to extend a UK trip and keep it secret from the company and spent company money on unnecessary international travel.

The demotions and resignations follow AMP Australia chief Alex Wade’s departure earlier this month over a separate incident in which he sent explicit photos to a female colleague.

Murray ‘stuck in the 80s’

Even in stepping down, Murray appeared to stand by his record.

“Although the board’s decision on the appointment was unanimous, my decision to leave reflects my role and accountability as chairman of the board and the need to protect continuity of management, the strategy and, to the extent possible, the board,” Murray said.

Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR) chair Brynn O’Brien welcomed the resignation, reflecting that the organisation had “always questioned” Murray’s suitability.

“It’s abundantly clear that Murray and those who share his views have no place as directors, much less chairs, of any listed companies. His views on risk and governance frameworks are stuck in the 80s and do not meet shareholder expectations of modern boards,” O’Brien said, calling Murray a climate sceptic.

“When he was appointed as chairman of AMP in 2019, investors should have asked ‘if Murray doesn’t accept the science of climate change, what or who else does he not believe?’ As it turns out, Murray doesn’t believe women.”

After Murray’s predecessor, Catherine Brenner, was forced to step down during the financial services royal commission, the chair position is proving something of a poison chalice.

It’s now Hazelton’s turn to try and turn the once-mighty financial institution around.