AMP chairman Catherine Brenner has resigned, exiting the embattled financial services group as the fallout of scandals revealed by the financial services royal commission shows little sign of abating.
Ms Brenner follows axed CEO Craig Meller out amid the royal commission-induced crisis, completing a top-level cleanout at AMP.
Group general counsel and company secretary Brian Salter has also been forced out – with Mr Salter revealing on Monday afternoon that he had learned of his axing via AMP’s announcement to the ASX this morning.
Mr Salter, who had been on leave, was sacked over his involvement in a contentious report into the scandal, AMP said on Monday, and while Mr Salter said he accepted his departure was a necessary part of renewal, he denied any wrongdoing.
Amid a raft of measures announced, AMP said directors’ fees will be cut by 25 per cent for the next eight months.
Former IAG chief executive Mike Wilkins, who had already taken on the role of interim chief executive, will become executive chairman until a new candidate is found.
Ms Brenner had faced immense pressure to quit from the Australian Shareholder Association after AMP admitted at the commission to charging clients for advice they never received and then lying to the corporate watchdog about it.
“As chairman, I am accountable for governance,” Ms Brenner said in Monday’s statement.
“I have always sought to act in the best interests of the company and have been in discussions with the board about the most appropriate course of action, including my resignation.”
AMP on Monday said Ms Brenner, Mr Meller and the other directors had done nothing wrong with regard to what was described as an independent external report it commissioned from law firm Clayton Utz and instead, shifted the blame onto Mr Salter.
During the royal commission, AMP group executive for advice Jack Regan admitted that he marked up changes to draft versions of the Clayton Utz document while the board also made changes before it was signed off.
“The board, including the former chairman, were unaware of and disappointed about the number of drafts and the extent of the group general counsel’s interaction with Clayton Utz during the preparation of the report,” the company said.
Mr Salter said in a statement released independently on Monday afternoon that he was “disappointed” to learn of his dismissal and said that he had not engaged in any wrongdoing.
“Clayton Utz has stated publicly that its report and its independence were not compromised,” he said.
AMP’s shares have been in freefall since the company gave testimony to the royal commission two weeks ago and reached an almost six-year low of $3.98 on Monday, losing $2.3 billion off its market capitalisation in a fortnight.
Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI) chief executive Louise Davidson said changes must extend beyond board renewal and urged AMP to “claw back” bonuses previously paid to executives involved in misconduct.
“Companies need to make sure staff incentives are consistent with ethical corporate behaviour, which has clearly not occurred here,” Ms Davidson said.
The wealth management giant, which faces possible criminal charges, will make a formal submission to the royal commission by May 4, in response to the matters raised.