Ratan Tata addressing shareholders during Tata Chemicals extraordinary general meeting on Friday
The Tata Chemicals extraordinary general meeting (EGM) on Friday was following the familiar script played out at other group companies’ EGMs earlier this week until Tata Sons Interim Chairman Ratan Tata chose to speak for the first time two months after Cyrus Mistry’s ouster on October 24.
“Over the last two months, there has been a definite move to damage my personal reputation and the reputation of this great group — the Tata group. And these days are very lonely because the newspapers are full of attacks, most of them unsubstantiated but nevertheless very painful,” Tata said in his opening remarks as he addressed shareholders.
Several shareholders at the previous four EGMs of group companies had requested Tata to address shareholders, and it was only in the fifth and the last EGM that Tata chose to speak.
“Coming here this week with all the shareholders, I have been so moved emotionally and deeply touched by the warmth and the support and the affection that they have shown. I could not leave here today without at least expressing my deepest gratitude to the shareholders. It has been a pleasure to be with you,” Tata told shareholders.
The Tata Sons board had requisitioned EGMs to remove Cyrus Mistry and Nusli Wadia from the boards of Tata Motors, Tata Steel, and Tata Chemicals. EGMs of Tata Consultancy Services and Indian Hotels were held to oust Mistry as director.
Tata Power’s EGM, which was scheduled to be held on December 26 has been cancelled as Mistry resigned from all the listed Tata group companies as director on December 19, a day before the Indian Hotels EGM.
Tata in his short address, which lasted a little more than two minutes, thanked shareholders for their support. “The group has been there for 150 years. It has been based on governance, fair play. I think the truth will prevail, whatever the process may be, however, painful it may be,” he further said.
Tata’s address to shareholders was the highlight of the otherwise predictive EGM.
“In all the three EGMs the format has been the same. A letter arrives on preceding evening,” said Ishaat Hussain, director, Tata Sons in his early remarks in his address to shareholders. Hussain's remarks were made in the context of Wadia's letter to shareholders.
Friday’s EGM was initially called for to vote on the decision to remove Cyrus Mistry and Nusli Wadia from the board of directors of the company. As Cyrus Mistry had already quit the board of Tata Chemicals, the resolution for his ouster was not taken up.
Shareholders at the EGM went ahead with the voting on the removal of Wadia as independent director of the company and the appointment of Bhaskar Bhat and S Padmanabhan as directors on the company's board. The results of the voting were not known at the time of going to press.
The last EGM had fewer shareholders than those seen at the earlier meetings.
Tata’s concluding remarks wishing shareholders a Happy New year was met with a standing ovation and applause from the board of directors and the top management of Tata Chemicals present on the dais.
Absent from the meeting were two independent directors Vibha Paul Rishi and Nusli Wadia. Similar to the earlier EGMs, Wadia in his letter to shareholders said, "I have chosen not to attend the meeting as I understand that recently held meetings of other Tata companies have been inappropriately and shamefully stage-managed by the requisitionist controlling the entry into the hall as also in the selection and choice of speakers as never before seen in Indian corporate history.”
Wadia was the independent director on three Tata Group companies - Tata Steel, Tata Motors, and Tata Chemicals. Shareholders of Tata Steel and Tata Motors voted in favour of Wadia’s removal as an independent director.
Wadia's allegations of the meeting being “stage managed” were also met with strong criticism from shareholders. However, Wadia did find some support from shareholders at the fag end of the meeting who demanded evidence against Wadia. Some shareholders also asked for the rationale for reappointment of Bhat as a company director.
The meeting was chaired by the company's independent director Nasser Munjee. In his opening remarks, R Mukundan, managing director of the company stated, Wadia in his earlier letter has raised concerns over the independence of Munjee. However, the board stood by the decision to allow Munjee to chair the meeting, he added.
Munjee added that the outcome of the meeting was subject to the Bombay high court order as few shareholders had moved the court against the resolution. The court had given a go-ahead to the EGM but had asked one seat on the board to be kept vacant till it decided on the suit.